To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 2 months old.
You seem older to me, first of all. Three and a half, surely, not just a hair over 3. Maybe because you’re potty trained and talking in paragraphs and determined to drop your nap. Maybe because with an August birthday, you’ll always need to grow up fast, or because I’m always rounding up ages in my head, like my friend Sejal tells me they do in India, where you’d be, if I’m doing it right, “4 years running.”
But here today, you’re 3 years and 2 months. You summon us at 6:30 to inform us you’ve had an accident, the first in quite a while. We get you sponged off and fresh clothes and sheets, and snuggle you back to bed for another half-hour. You do not in fact sleep, but stay relatively peaceful until the light turns green. We all get ready pretty quickly, into our warm clothes for a long walk in the cool weather. The temperature has dropped 45 degrees since Thursday.
We buckle in, get hatted up, and head for the donut shop and then the trail, crossing the Congress bridge and then back south at Pfluger. You hop out of the stroller for a quick hello to the turtles, and we admire the latest progress on the big playground going up at Butler Park. We snag tacos for tradition despite bellies full of donut, and head home. You and Dad represent us at Central Market, and brave the carwash after a flock of birds uses our car for target practice.
Back at home, Annie hands you her bundle of big fall leaves, and you pretend it’s a kite or a wand or a dog on a leash. We trim dead stalks off the front-yard yucca and decide to plant some of its seeds. This turns into an extended dirt-scooping session. Fun.
It’s time to eat again, apparently, and you eat your small lunch and also Annie’s (oranges and cheese). You make awesome lunchtime conversation, like, “Did you know: a dinosaur pooped a PLANET.” I did not know. I promise to nap with you, so you go upstairs and to bed without protest…but do not sleep. We make a go of it for 45 minutes before I give up. You go downstairs and watch some highly-enriching Bubble Guppies with Annie.
Our nearby playground has finally reopened, and we go. You swing and slide and climb and drink from the water fountain and make me pretend-hamburgers out of wood chips. We stroll home and have some crackers. Annie asks about pumpkin pie, and Dad tells her we can make some if she’ll go to the grocery store. You reject special mom-time and run out to the car to join the trip to a bonkers HEB at prime shopping time. Brave.
Supplies obtained, you scoop sugar and help me and Annie mix the pie filling. Kalia and Riley come over, and you play—in the backyard in the pinon smoke and upstairs in your room, twirling in the dark at a dance party and making shadows on the wall.
Salmon, bread, strawberries, and definitely no brussel sprouts for dinner, then a “pop-si-co” for dessert. You can say popsicle, but you and Annie are nicknaming everything these days. It’s late and you are BEAT, so we hustle upstairs and through the bedtime routine. Dad tells the latest installment in his “Treasures of Smaug the Dragon” series (fifth treasure: sapphires). He intercepts you early on your first bed-escape trip, and you loud-cry for a few minutes before zonking out for a solid 12.
To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned four and a half years old.
You consent to work with Dad on your list this morning, and end up mining the closet drawer of hand-me-downs to create a spectacular Halloween outfit. It’s always fun to see you in pants. We add a couple of unnecessary band-aids to your feet to complete the look, and we’re on our way.
At school, we navigate around a pile of kitty litter, soaking up someone’s puked-up breakfast in the entryway. Oh, little kids. We drop Paul in the Owls, and Ms. Jojo makes her usual fuss over you. You burst into the All Stars, ready for action.
It’s a typical day, so far as we hear. I collect you at 5, and you and Paul hop around on the stumps for a few minutes before we load up. You request a story on the ride home, as usual, “and it’s a long one.” I deliver Elsa rescuing the Cars characters from a swimming pool, which we’ve been riffing on since we watched Kiki’s Delivery Service last weekend. At home, we gather some giant fallen leaves from the driveway on our way inside, which you turn into a headdress/magic wand. You eat some pasta and apples for dinner, then sit on the front porch for a mango push-up pop. Yum.
You and Paul are sticky now, and it’s 97 degrees, and we need to water the plants, so, naturally, you both strip naked and we hook up the sprinkler. You dance in the sprinkles while Paul swings in the hammock (and, yikes, presents his tender toddler-flesh to a dozen ravenous mosquitos). We head inside, warm up, and get ready for bed.
It’s few pages of Richard Scary’s Big Book of something or other, and a Dad-story to close. He tells you installment number 4 of Smaug’s Treasures (rubies, and “economic revitalization,” I hear as I’m leaving the room). You and Paul—mostly Paul—attempt a few post bed-time escapes but return to bed pretty amiably, and by 8:30, we’re probably all asleep.
Just watched Annie lick melted popsicle off Paul’s chin.
Now she’s telling stories. Here’s one:
“Once upon a time, Paul pooped on a tow truck, and he had to go to the doctor. That’s the end.”
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 1 month old.
You are still testing the stay-in-bed limits, and Dad fields a wee-hours potty request. You have correctly identified potty needs as the trump card. When the light turns green, you charge into our bathroom as I’m getting out of the shower, and our day officially begins. Somehow you both end up swaddled like babies in your old muslins. It’s hard to explain.
We make it downstairs for breakfast—more banana muffins you helped bake on Sunday, and fruit, and a bonus bowl of cold oatmeal. You strut to the car carrying the vitamins, and Dad buckles you in. We talk and tell stories and ask questions all the way to school. Your classroom was temporarily relocated yesterday after a burst pipe rendered the floor unsafe, so we drop you in the ex-Sea-Turtles class right by the entrance. The Owls have all moved in, and you seem happy to be back there. There’s a library loft! We have a hug, and you insist on kissing both my cheeks, and then my legs. Yep.
Other than the new classroom, it’s a typical day at school. Lunch—I laugh now to notice since I just served the exact same thing for dinner—is spinach quiche. You nap. The afternoon on the playground must have been fun, because your feet are FILTHY when you come home. Dad finds you at 5, working enthusiastically on some dot art. He lets you hop on the stumps by the door, and then you head home.
You must have missed your last potty trip because you have an enormous accident in the car on the way home. Dad strips down the carseat and tries to mop your pee out of the perforated leather while I sponge off your legs and butt. Mmmm, dinner time! Unsurprisingly to me now, you are not very enthusiastic about the spinach quiche on your plate, but you scarf your strawberries and eat black beans by the handful. “What’s in this quiche?” you ask, and then answer yourself, “Eggs and cheese and BOOTY.”
After you handle every piece of pepperoni on the serving dish, Dad works in a pro-parenting lesson on not touching food and silverware you aren’t going to use. You end up with three spoons, somehow. You relish our full attention as Annie lies down on the couch—she spiked a fever this morning and has been home and pitiful all afternoon.
You are extremely dirty. I convince you to go upstairs for a bath, and you convince me to crawl like a turtle with you to get there. The tub is a blast.
We complete our grooming rituals, and when you and I return to your room, we find Annie there in bed. It’s 6:45. I sit so she can see the pictures and start reading our new Baby Mercy book from Aunt Peanut. You sit in my lap, only a little squirmy, then pick out three more books and allow Dad to read a couple. He tells you the story of Hansel and Gretel, and says goodnight when, wow!, it’s still just 7:15.
And you’re quiet for 20 minutes, and then you emerge and tell me you have to go potty, even though you peed literally half an hour ago, but what am I gonna do? Walk with you to the bathroom, that’s what. You pee a tablespoon, and then get back in bed, and then request a BIG hug, and to kiss both of my cheeks. Smack, smack. And my forehead. Smack. And my nose. Smack. You chuckle. “That’s a hard one, right?” Right, Paul. Right.
To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 5 months old.
You and Paul are full of energy this morning, bursting out of your room and giggling under our bed. We keep it playful, and I “find” you there again and again. Your morning list proves difficult to execute with your body under the bed, so I build an Annie out of your clothes and accessories on the floor, and when you’re ready to emerge, you put them on. A special surprise is a new bracelet I’ve strung with for your unicorn charm.
Breakfast downstairs is banana muffins and fruit, and then you load up in the car for a Dad ride to school. He’s playing the Lion King soundtrack; you approve. Dad and Paul drop you in the All Stars, where you eat yet more muffins and fruit for breakfast and check your correspondence. You and your friends have been making piles of notes and pictures for each other the last couple of weeks, and your art drawer is full of them.
The Spanish teacher comes to your class, and you and your classmates sing the “Buenos Dias” song, adorably.
Lunch is “pizzadillas” with canned pineapple and corn. You eat most of it, and, according to the records, actually nap for a couple of hours.
Your afternoon is a mystery, but scattered rain storms might have spiced it up for you. Thanks also to that rain, it takes me 40 minutes to drive from my building to get you, so you and Paul are the last two at the Center, hanging out with Principal Paula at the front when I roll in at last.
Fortunately, traffic on the highway has eased up by 6:15 when we get there, so it’s a pretty quick trip home. We have a nice, chatty dinner together, as you munch on fruit and eat your cheese into the shape of the sun and moon. You’ve been learning about the planets at school, and we talk about them, and how they also have moons, and how many. Paul poops and we all have a jelly bean. At 7 we head upstairs to get ready for bed. You are sucking your jelly bean into oblivion and thus reluctant to brush your teeth. So we do everything else, and have a nice long hairbrush, and you whisper in my ear about your nightmares last night. “One was a shark, and one was a wolf.” We talk about how dreams are one way your brain makes sense of everything it’s learned and done that day, but thank goodness they’re not real. You brush your teeth.
We’ve missed the reading time Dad has had with Paul, so you climb right into bed for a story. You request one about, no joke, poop eating poop. I manage to work in a unicorn and, for the happy ending, a very well-fertilized forest.
We loved seeing Aunt Peanut and Uncle Dan this weekend.