a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 3 months old.

You are up eeeearly on this Saturday, raring to go at 6:15. You agitate for activities; Dad and I suggest cuddling on the couch for crosswords and coffee. You grudgingly accept this offer as the best you’re likely to get. As the sun rises, you eat toasted waffles and put another layer of wrapping paper on the birthday gift you’ve made for your friend Vera (it’s a giant paper airplane—she’ll be thrilled), and make one for River, too, while you’re at it. You watch Dad do a little guitar work.


When Annie is up and about as well, you two form your team and do some wrestling on the couch. Your toys line up for RPG battles. At opening hour, Dad takes you to Costco to stock up and perhaps spend some of your latest lemonade stand money. You are extremely disappointed to find nothing you can afford with the $8 remaining to you. Annie, however, purchases a pack of baby squishmallows that form the backbone of your next project: creating an endangered squishmallow refuge. After significant infrastructure arrangement, you emerge to ernestly plead with the donor class for visits and financial support.

Dad agrees to a visit but has no cash, so you kindly issue us both a store credit card.
Dad agrees to a visit but has no cash, so you kindly issue us both a store credit card. It’s 50 cents to feed a baby squishmallow.

The afternoon wears on, and it’s time for your next social engagement: Vera’s birthday party. You add 4 small squishmallows to her gift and a giant rainbox tag: I LOVE YOU VERA PAUL. I somehow fail to take a photo of this.

We arrive at Vera’s house and discover you are the only boy invited. You are unfazed. The girls like you, and I like their moms. Vera has made plans to marry you. We have a nice couple of hours.

scrambling for pinata treats
scrambling for pinata treats

Back at home, you don’t look so hot. You’re coughing in that complicated way you have that makes me picture every little bronchiole in your lungs, and your temperature is a little high. We decide stay home from dinner with the Crowders in favor of couch snuggles. You play Prodigy and casually execute some algebra (10 + 8 = __ + 5) while I read and take your temperature every 10 minutes. It never gets bad.

I do not mind this plan at all.
I do not mind this plan at all.

We eat dinner and you take a long steamy bath. There’s enough time for one more thing, and you decide on building a robot out of plastic cups, no maybe just drawing a blueprint, no actually we’re going to make a book, about us. You are going to be the illustrator, and I’ll be the writer. What is it about? YOU can decide, Mom. But NO PROBLEMS and NOTHING BAD.


You proudly complete our project, and we’re climbing into bed as Annie and Dad arrive home. Annie joins in the bedtime routine, and I read a library book to you about Jupiter and tuck all your lovies around you. Goodnight, goober.

a day in your life

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

You’ve adjusted to the time change and sleep until a healthy 6:30. I come visit you and Paul, both snuggled in your bed, as you’re blinking awake. You’re in a bit of a silly mood and forgo breakfast in favor of thrashing around in the living room armchair, eventually consenting to a hair brush. We pack your flamingo sun hat for school: you are practicing in music today for a performance next week, and hats are involved.

You protest your lack of breakfast when it’s time to leave—sorry, sweetie, you chose to wallow in a chair instead of eat. I cut you a hunk of bread to gnaw on en route, and you’re all smiles. You ask me to hold your bread hunk while you show off your skills at putting your own hair into a ponytail. Impressive! Neighbors walking their dogs smile at you and Paul, your heads together and whispering, as we near the school. I get a quick side-hug at the front door, and you disappear into the school.

Dad picks you up at the end of the day and walks you home. I have a PTA Board meeting so head to school separately. You tell me later than your friend Elke wanted the two of you to come to the meeting so you could play on the sidelines. Instead, you make giant paper airplanes out of our 4x-sized construction paper at home, and spend a long time on the swings at the playground. You run in the backdoor at 5:30 and give me an enthusiastic hug.

Paul brought home his math book from school, which inspires a hunt for your own 1st grade textbook. It can’t be found, but you do unearth a stack of your old work and a sticker book, which you spread around the dining table for a few minutes of entertainment. We eat at the other end.


We decide to spend some time after dinner in our various learning pursuits. You take Dad’s guitar to the couch and spend 10 minutes plucking strings, then do a singing lesson. You comandeer my phone, which has the language app, and work on some beginning German. “Das Mädchen trinkt,” I hear in your tiny voice.

During bath time, you direct and perform synchonizing farting with Paul, letting captured air escape from cups under your legs and cackling at your wicked cleverness.

You decide to try on your new jeans after bath, which you want to like, but don’t quite yet. “Mom, if I start complaining, will you try to help me feel better?” Innoculated with this self-awareness, you keep your cool and decide very rationally on more comfortable pants for bed.


the most powerfulest card

I just pretended to buy “the most powerfulest” Pokemon card off some weird online storefront, for .80 + 2.50 in shipping, cleaning out Paul’s and Annie’s allowance balance. It’s an Arceus vmax, 10000 health/8000 damage, in case you didn’t know. The ship date is in January. Paul doesn’t mind how long it will take—he’ll take a “seasonally long nap” until it arrives. “Like hibernating?” I ask. YES. “You’ll miss all the holidays!” “That’s okay!” Annie is also going to hibernate. They are creating their cozy nest, in fact. Annie pops out of her room. “Mom, good news about the hibernating: I spent all day cleaning boogers out of nose, so I’ll have a clear nose for it!”

This is all true, if surreal. Also true: I will be seeing a whole lots of ads for Pokemon cards.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 2 months old.

Dad calls from Berlin, and you talk to him on the phone as you wake up slowly in bed. Eventually you emerge to have breakfast, under the table in “niblet mode” (pretending to be helpless and silly). We pack your backpack to include a pickle juice bottle filled with water, and you are full of wicked glee at the idea of tricking your classmate Alexander (“he’s seven already!”) into thinking it’s actually pickle juice.

We walk to school with Aunt Camei. On the way, you admire the moon and share facts about it—moonlight is reflected sunlight—and new revelations. “That’s where the sun rises and sets,” you say pointing east, and pointing west, “That’s where the moon rises and sets.” Well… Correctly, you add, “But actually it’s the earth that’s moving.” And you get very still to see if you can feel it.

looking moonward
looking moonward

Approaching the school, you have the important revelation that perhaps your missing water bottles ARE IN THE LOST AND FOUND. What??? It’s sure worth a shot. You visit the box on your way in, but alas, no bottles. The recycled pickle juice container must do.

I don’t hear much about your day, but Aunt Camei picks you up at the end of it, and you have a pleasant walk home. After a snack, you visit the playground, and there things fall apart a bit. Expecting to stay until 5:30, you are extremely dismayed when the return-to-house occurs at 5:26, and fall apart into a defiant wreck. I come home briefly at about this time and take you upstairs to decompress. You share your sense of betrayal, and I attempt to reinforce adult authority before bugging out again for a work dinner. Reconcilliations are made over a screening of Paw Patrol and some Pokemon cards.


I return at 7:30 for the bedtime routine, and read a bit of Matilda and some of the Dangerous Book for Boys for you. Goodnight, little tiger.

a day in your life

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

You sleep in this Monday morning, but are full of smiles from the bed. I sit in the chair and answer your questions, while Dad makes you chocolate-chip pancakes.

We leave for school a little late and walk hand-in-hand while the boys lag behind. You’re in a new sweatshirt passed down from friend Jade and show me your trick of keeping your hands warm inside your sleeves. “Is it this cold all winter?” you ask, my sweet summer child. It’s 67 degrees.


The first bell rings as we’re walking up. You give Dad a big goodbye hug—he’ll leave for a long work trip to Europe later this afternoon. Into the school you go.

You have a substitute today, Ms “Cruc…. she said if we couldn’t pronounce her name to call her Ms. C,” who was “pretty good!” You went to PE and read books, including one on the Titanic, “I learned it left on April 10th and The Californian rescued the lifeboats on April 15th,” and one about Anne Frank. “Can you tell me all the facts you know about Anne Frank?” you ask. Oh my goodness.

Back home, we have a snack (raspberries and cheese), and you spend half an hour on Epic, listening to more books. I overhear the one about Sonya Sotomayor, replete with themes of Latina empowerment and Supreme Court basics. You walk me through the sound map you drew at school, by closing your eyes and listening for everything you could hear. Cool. We eat dinner and have remarkably advanced conversation. “What inspired you to work at UT Austin?” you ask.



We invite 1st-grader/neighbor Sabine’s family to the playground on the spur of the moment and spend a happy hour there. You negotiate elaborate pretend scenarios in which you are 19 (your favorite age). She loans you her toy phone for the night, sealing your friendship forever.

We miss Dad but manage the evening on our own, ending the night with a bit of Matilda (second round). Goodnight, 2nd-grader.

a day in your life

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

You and Paul spend the first 20 quiet minutes of the day doing your own thing. I see you a few minutes after seven, towing a long finger-weaving up the stairs that I made last night watching TV and have some plans for. I try to spare your feelings while I confiscate it. You rebound. You and Dad discussed going for a jog this morning; you remember; and you are ready. You suit up and head out.


Undeterred by a fall and some light knee-scraping, you complete a full mile triumphantly. In the flush of victory, you consent to a hardware store trip with Dad, who’s keen to buy a tree lopper, and you spend 98 cents from your allowance to acquire a bug repellent bracelet in red, white, and blue.

Back home, you get back to playing with Paul. Benignly neglected, you open 14 dried fruit packages to mine the collectors cards inside. “Don’t worry, Mom, we ate most of them.” Cool cool cool. You move onto fort building, executing an indisputably excellent construction in the den.


You visit me in my office/library, writing notes on my whiteboard and rediscovering treasures like Mulberry the polar bear. You spot the yarn and start a finger-weaving of your own. Your creation, in dark gold, suggests itself to you as a tortilla, and you decide to craft tacos for the Geralds, whom we’re going to visit later in the afternoon. Great project idea! We brainstorm how to create the components, and you put me to work on tortilla weaving and cutting cheese shreds out of orange felt while you trim pink yarn into strips of bacon.


Around 2, we head to their place, and you present your offering. We head upstairs so you can hunt for their new kittens. When we find them, you’re mostly scared. You, Paul, and Shae make your way into the pool and have hours of high seas adventures, punctuated by tender moments with toddler Asher.


Back home, you cheerfully carry the dining room chairs from the fort build back to the table, and change clothes. You and Paul have a lengthy negotiation about chicken nugget splitting, which ends amicably. You eat a pile of sliced cucumbers, and not many of your hard-won nuggets.

Dad is reading the last two chapters of the BFG tonight. We read it the first time a year or so ago, and your ability to understand and follow all the details is incredibly improved. I’ve introduced a little extra poignancy by telling you that the Queen of England who features so prominently in the book has actually in real life just died.

All ends well for Sophie and the BFG, though, and likewise for you. Goodnight, not-so-little one.

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.


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.)


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.



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.


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).



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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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


You and Mr. Dustin examine a cicada shell.


We eat crunchy tacos and chat.


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.