a day in your life

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

It’s Paul’s birth-week, and the special attention is rolling in. He wakes up talking about his new fire truck while you stay quiet with your eyes screwed shut. I come to you singing a song about you and lift you up into a big hug. The attention helps you face the day.

You wake up in dry undies, having decided a week ago that you don’t need to wear diapers at night any more. So that’s it for diapers, just, done! You head to the potty, and I sit you on the bathroom counter for a ponytail.

Breakfast is plums and mini-pancakes.
Breakfast is plums and mini-pancakes.

Dad takes you to school and drops you off in your still-new class, the Owls. Special features include Splash Day, wherein you get wet and muddy, and a classmate’s birthday, which offers further training in not being the special one. You come home with an almost implausibly sophisticated piece of art.

At home, you encounter Aunt Camei, Granddad, and another birthday girl—Susu! She’s here to celebrate her 70th, and what better way?

catching up
catching up

You have apparently learned to snort at school today and are pretty delighted with that accomplishment. The next half hour passes in frantic play with grandparents, Paul’s new firetrucks, Rabumpus—I lose track. You cap it off by literally running laps around the house, which Susu and Granddad obligingly count. Twenty-five.

I would have thought you worked up an appetite, but you decline your dish of mac and cheese and for dinner eat five strawberries and a glass of milk. Then upstairs we go, for a lengthy game of hide and seek that involves running out of the room, shouting some numbers, running back in, and squealing when you find me and Susu hiding under a blanket. Paul tails you through the process. Eventually the whole family joins in.

At 7:15, it’s time to wind down. We wash hands and brush teeth, and you pick out Ollie the Stomper to read, then Dog Goes to Nursery School with Dad. “We haven’t read this one in a long long long long time.”

You turn off the lights, and we proceed through our cuddle routine. As I’m leaving the room, you bust out the hard questions, and I stand in the doorway and spontaneously generate answers to such gems as, “What happens to me when I die?” In response to my answer (something like: our bodies go back to the earth, and everything else that’s alive carries a little piece of us), you follow-up with, “Do the crabs get me?” Oof. Where’s heaven when you need it? You are also curious about whether clouds die, whether water is alive, and when I find myself trying to answer whether the sun will die, I decide to call it.

I say goodnight, and you ask your true burning question: “Is tomorrow a school day or a home day?”

A home day, Annie. A home day.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is what happened on the day you turned 3 years and 3 months old.

You wake up in the kids room at Gamma and Gobka’s Colorado casa. Rosie and Max have already rolled out of their bottom bunks, and you and Paul chatter to each other in your pack-and-plays until I come and lift you out. It’s the fifth day of our visit, and Uncle Jeff, Max, and Rose are getting ready to leave. You are sad about this.

We come upstairs for a breakfast of yogurt and fruit, but Totoro is playing on the TV, and its tractor beam sucks you into a screen coma for 20 minutes before you make it to the table. Breakfast finally achieved, you do a little cuddling and romping, and then it’s time to say goodbye to our cousins.

reading with Gamma
reading with Gamma, and preparing for a luxurious hair twirl

You and I head out for a walk around the neighborhood. You start a little whiny (“I’m TIRED from WALKING”) but we persevere, picking daisies and listening to birds. That description sounds a little more idyllic than the reality, which involves quite a bit of distracting you from your desire to be carried.

Back at the casa, we read books and play with blocks, then load up in the car for a trip to the playground in downtown Winter Park. You climb and walk on ledges and check out the other children.

"This is my home."
“This is my home.”

We head back for lunch: peanut butter sandwiches and milk. Your sandwich-eating technique is to blaze a trail straight through the center, frosting your cheeks with crumbs and peanut grease. You have loved sharing a bedroom with Max and Rosie, and at naptime have been sleeping in Rosie’s bottom bunk. I get you tucked in there and read you your favorite local book, a Cherokee legend on the origin of the Milky Way (a dog stole some food—wonder why this resonates?). We snuggle a little longer, and you ask me a stream of questions. “What happens if water spills from the top bunk? What are thumbs for? Does our home have string? What’s inside the bed?” I finally extract myself, and you seem to sleep.

It’s a good nap. We see you again a couple of hours later. Paul sleeps on, so you have us to yourself. We sit on the back porch and watch the hummingbirds, and you abscond with my kindle to turn all the pages and thoroughly lose my place. We do a little reading together and building with blocks. Paul wakes up and joins us.

Dad and I head off for a date night. You watch the end of Totoro, a bit of Moana, and a PJ Masks episode. For dinner, you have a bit of chicken, request and do not eat tomatoes, and reject thawed peas in favor of still-frozen ones. Afterward, it’s playtime a little longer, and then you walk Gobka carefully through the process of putting on your nighttime diaper. He does an excellent rendition of the story about cornmeal and the Milky Way. You make sure everyone has socks, and go to sleep.

pure Annie
pure Annie

At 10:00, you are fast asleep when I sneak into your room and scoop you out of bed, whispering to you to be quiet. I carry you out onto the patio and lay down on a blanket to look up at the bright stars in the clear dark sky. I don’t think you’ve ever seen them before. In your tiny nighttime voice:

“Why is it so dark?”
“Because it’s the middle of the night.”
“Does Paul know it’s dark?”

Brighter than the stars are the headlights of cars on the highway, and those are what catch your eye.

“Mom, why are people still driving to their homes or other places?”
“Because it’s nighttime, and time for people to go home to their families if they can.”
“Why do some people not go home to their families?”
“Well, they may have other things to do. We’re lucky to be together with our family.”
“I love Gamma and Gobka, and Granddad and Susu. We haven’t seen Granddad and Susu in a long time!”

We talk for a little while, and sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at your request. You ask to go back to bed, so I take you there. You snuggle back down, and go back to sleep.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 2 months old.

You wake up around 7 and are thrilled to find Granddad and Susu to greet you. Dad is on a work trip in Zurich for a whole week, so we have called in heavy reinforcements. You request that Granddad pick you up and change you out of your diaper, then dazzle him with your ability to put on your own undies.

After breakfast, we loiter in the front yard, and a flirtation with the wagon prompts a playground trip. You and Paul head first to the swings, where again my attentions are unwanted, and you demand pushes from ONLY GRANDDAD. We move onto the slides, where your sweaty legs squeeeeeeak your slow way down.

foot-drumming in the tunnel
foot-drumming in the tunnel

You pull a shift serving play-pizza out of the playhouse, ride the turtle, and do some very serious swinging in the big-kid swings. We roll on home after a good hour.

Passing through the neighbor’s sprinkler in the wagon reminds us of our own, so when we arrive in our backyard, we hook it up. You pull your usual nudist routine and have a ball running around. Thank goodness for spray-on sunscreen.


At 10:15 or so, Charly arrives, and your grown-up family bugs out for some quiet time. You continue your romp and eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. You help Charly settle Paul down in his crib for nap, then create a splendid tent palace for yourself on top of our bed. At 2:30, I see you again, cuddled up with your pillow and friends, tent flap open with a pile of books and toys outside it. You can unzip your tent now, so we must exercise persuasion to keep you nap-ready. Good practice for when you realize you can easily climb out of your crib.

We get dressed and make for Uncle Mike and Evie’s house. It’s a Hall family spectacular over there. You require your usual warm-up time but are soon upstairs with Miles and Lyla, playing with 20-year-old toys and having a ball. Knocking a full cup of water onto a coffee table full of books is the only hitch in the program.

Dinner at the kids table is followed by a round of firearms training. You pose for your NRA-member profile pic.

Annie's got a gun.
Annie’s got a gun.

We head home around six. I bug out to go see Bill Clinton on his book tour, and you coach Granddad and Susu through your bedtime routine. You take a bath with a good shampoo from Susu’s magic fingers, execute a successful potty break, and then dry off and pick out the dress you remember wearing when you fed the cows at Pig Roast. You read five books together and proceed through your light-switch routine, more or less. And that’s a wrap!

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 1 month old.

You wake up at 7, but we’re not quite ready for you in the grown-up world. You hang out with Paul for half an hour, chatting about this and that, maybe playing with the window shades or throwing your toys out of your cribs—who knows? It’s your time.

Good morning to you!
Good morning to you!

I find you smiling and lift you out of your crib. You unfasten your diaper and let it drop on the floor. Your undies selection is elaborate. You pull all of your Paw Patrol pairs out of the drawer, line them up meticulously, and select your favorite. Watching for the tag in the back, you pull them on more-or-less by yourself.

Downstairs we go, to “breksis.” You peer into the fridge and pick out lemon yogurt, and chat with Granddad and Susu while you eat. They’re here for most of the week while your poor dad is on his third work trip in as many weeks. You request an album. (We have just bowed to hipster culture and procured a turntable—I know). “The one with the white stripes, side D,” you specify. We’re Going To Be Friends.

Breksis complete, you and Paul make a lap or two with the push toys, then it’s shoes on and out to the car.

IMG953927 (1)


En route to school, you inquire about the panhandler. “What is he doing?” I try to be honest with you about this stuff while not offering you more information than you ask for. “He’s asking for money.” “Why does he want money?” “So he can buy things.”


Hey! We’re on the highway. You tell me you can see a circle moon, and I realize you’re looking at the sun behind the clouds. “Oh, Annie, that’s the sun, don’t look right at it.” “Why-y?” “Because your eyes might burn.” “Will it make me sick?” Well, no, it might just, um, damage your vision forever.

It’s hard conversations we have in the car. The other day I may have accidentally taught you about death when trying to keep you from putting a plastic bag in your mouth.

We arrive at school, and I leave you waiting in line for the potty. Bye bye, sweetie. I assume you have a normal day, and I actually don’t see you again. Shanna picks you up from the playground at 4:30. You ride home in her car to the tune of “Wheels on the Bus.” Stuck at a light downtown for 15 minutes, you and Paul name vehicles of different types, and you speculate on causes of the delay. “Are there firetrucks helping people?” Could be.


At home, you play outside until the mosquitos find you. (I confess this photo is from last week with Shanna, but I assume it’s a similar scene. CHEEEEESE.)

It’s pasta for dinner, and then a bath. You are too tired for life. “I can’t read a book, I have my bracelet on!” Shanna comforts you: “It’s okay, honey, we can take off the bracelet.”

At 7:25, you’ve completed the ritual and are tucked into bed. Ten minutes later, I get home, and you are fast asleep.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned three years old.

At 7:20, I hear you singing the birthday song to yourself, quietly, through the door to your room. Dad and I walk in, boisterous.


“Annie, do you know what today is??” I ask. You look up at me from your book with a sweet, hopeful smile, and venture, “…A home day?”

Oh, well, not quite. But hey, it’s your birthday—that’s pretty good. I ask if you want to put on your special dress, the one that your classmate Isabella’s family left in your cubby yesterday as a gift. “Um, yeah!” you affirm. I lift you out of your crib, we select some Paw Patrol undies, and you step into your confection of a dress. (When you tried it on for the first time yesterday, you looked so sweet and soft that Paul immediately hugged you.)

Downstairs, you request lemon yogurt, and I oblige. The mood is cheerful. You and Paul finish your yogurt—not a drop on your dress!—and munch through a couple slices of toast. We slide on your shoes and head out.

It’s trash day, so we remark on the garbage trucks. You ask why they’re called that, and I explain that garbage and trash are two words for the same thing, and you add that there are also recycling trucks, and compost trucks. True. You point out the alligators (elevators) on the buildings under construction downtown, and debate with Paul whether certain vehicles are cars or trucks.

At school, we run into Isabella and her dad while you are doing this:


So they are able to see how much you enjoy your new dress. We drop Paul off in the Sea Turtles, and Shanna and Maricela make a fuss over you. I leave you in the Peacock class with a promise to see you again at 3. Mary tells me you spend the whole day twirling.


At 3:20, I find you and your classmates having snack around the tables, which I enhance with tiny cupcakes (HEB’s finest, with the icing sliding off the top from spending the day in my warm car.) You are quiet, but I engage your classmates in conversation about who is two and who is three. When I ask what comes after 3, I am greeted by blank stares. In another life, I’d know precisely when you were developmentally able to understand sequence in that way, but that is not the life we’re leading. I also would have baked the cupcakes.

We say goodbye to the Peacocks and seek Paul on the playground. He spots us and runs over for a hug, pink and damp. I hustle you all to the car with a promise of a cupcake in the backseat. You do not get one speck of it on your dress. Paul is another story.


At home, we say hi-bye to Dad as he gets home from the office but heads into a last meeting. While I’m helping you on the potty, Paul joins that meeting, and we call him out. You ask to watch “a little Kiki,” and what the hey, it’s your birthday. So we do that for half an hour or so, until Dad finishes his meeting and the good weather lures us outside for a walk.


We come home to open presents: animal puppets from our friends Katie/Poppy, a rocketship tent from Gamma and Gobka, and a baby doll from us. You’re into it.

It’s potty time again. With a taffeta rustle, you gather your skirts in your lap and give me the grimace I have known for three years. “I’m going to poop a lot and tinkle a lot,” you inform me. Yes ma’am.

You and Paul are coming a little unglued but have a mostly-good time romping in the tent while Dad and I rinse berries and thaw peas and make two boxes of Annie’s macaroni and cheese. I wish I could tell you this was a special meal designed with your favorites in mind, but really it’s just what we eat these days.


Dad offers you the option of continuing to push your baby in the stroller downstairs or watching 10 more minutes of Kiki after a bath. You opt for the latter, and cooperatively get undressed and into the bath. I wash your giant body, thinking of my vanished newborn, and it’s back to the movie for the gripping conclusion. Your doll joins the pack of friends in your crib, and we read a new book from our friends Caroline/Jane. We start our lullaby, and you turn down the lights—the bedtime job you relish.

After I tuck you in with your baby, you ask me to sing “Twinkle Twinkle,” so I do while you hold my hand.

“Thank you for singing me the song, Mom.”

“You’re welcome! Goodnight, Annie. I love you so much.”

“I love you so much TOO, Mom!”

I visit Paul’s crib for a last cuddle while we review the plan for the morning, which involves making toast and consulting clocks and the location of the shelves in our bedroom. You want to know everything. I back away slowly and say a final goodnight through a crack in the door.


Then you sing and make siren noises and say “I’M THREE I’M THREE I’M THREE wee-oh-wee-oh-wee-oh” and ask Paul if he speaks Spanish for another 40 minutes. I listen to you while I write this.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years and 11 months old.

I lift you out of your crib at 7:15, and we check the boo-boo on your butt right off. (You sat down hard on something at school yesterday and bruised yourself; when I saw you at the end of the day, you appealed, “Mom, can you please kiss my butt?”) We head downstairs for a brief breakfast, then buckle you into the stroller for a walk with Dad, Paul, and Sous. It’s Saturday!

You meet Kalia with Eleanor and Riley for tacos at our usual truck, and at 9:30 are home to regroup for our next adventure. We’re headed to your friend June’s house to celebrate her birthday with one other classmate of yours. Y’all are besties.

June, Annie, and Isabella
June, Annie, and Isabella

After your usual warm-up period, you’re swarming all over the playground and ordering cups of water from June’s mom. You feast on berries and cupcakes (you lick off the frosting, and Paul eats the cake—brilliant collaboration). June gets upset for some 3-year-old reason, and you spend 20 minutes delivering toys to her to make her feel better.

We head home for naptime, which you protest as usual, starting things off un-peacefully with half an hour of yelling. Eventually you do sleep, and we see you again around 2:30. You briefly meet Uncle George, here for SXSW and currently plugged into the VR machine. We’ll get some quality time later.


We hustle to the grocery store. After a critical first stop for a balloon (purple), we make our usual rounds. You enjoy samples of fruits, cheese, and a blueberry pancake, and select peach yogurt and a chocolate cookie, which we’ll carve into 8 tiny wedges for dessert.


Back home, you and Paul play together with only light supervision while Dad and I get dinner started. Around 4:30, our friends Katie, Doug, and Poppy arrive. We eat shrimp and grits around the table while you stroll around the living room. (Alone, we will require you to sit at the table with us for at least 10 minutes, but with company we are not in the mood to force it.) Dad ends up eating your dinner—boy, you would have loved those cheese grits if you’d tried them—and you deign to join us for a bit of cookie at the end.

While the grown-ups linger at the table, somehow you and Paul maneuver yourselves onto your bike together. (Not authorized for indoor use, but again, we’re in no mood.) You lead the pack of children in a lengthy round of pushing toys across the house. We turn on 20 minutes of Totoro to wind things down, and you use the potty to good effect.



We make our way upstairs and take a quick sponge bath. You turn on the noise machine and click the lights down to a low setting. We sing the lullaby and proceed through our increasingly elaborate bedtime ritual. (It now features you standing on your crib railing, while I hold you, to check whether you’ve grown tall enough to touch the ceiling. “Not quite!” you conclude.) As we leave the room, you chirp a reminder not to turn the lights all the way off. You got it, boss.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years and 10 months old.

You and Paul wake up around 7 and squeal at each other until we retrieve you. You pick out some undies and insist on threading your legs in by yourself. (I intervene on attempt #3 and get you sorted out.) Downstairs we go for breakfast. You peel off the top of your yogurt and Paul’s, and the room falls silent as you both spoon it into your mouths. A round of hot buttered toast finishes breakfast.

smiling at Dad
smiling at Dad

You’re delighted it’s a “home day” (it’s Saturday), and soon have me following you to the Bumblebees class at school in our usual game of pretend. You’re my mom, and you leave me at school, where I am encouraged to cry for you. We pause the game to read Mercy Watson: Something Wonky This Way Comes. (I will confess to you now that I am SICK of Mercy the pig. But you love her, so.)

Dad is ready to get on with our morning walk, so you and I head upstairs to get me dressed. You put on flip flops. When told you must also wear pants to leave the house, you stage a grand mal tantrum. We manage to strap you into the stroller but are so distracted we leave the house without wallets or phones. A few blocks down the street, Dad runs back for them.

We head north on Congress and cross the bridge, then hit the trail. You do a little grumbling—you’d much prefer to walk than ride these days—but mainly keep it together. We cross the river again on the pedestrian bridge, and then you’re free to run around through Butler Park. We watch a train pass and check the pond for turtles (none today). We walk over a hill, and you help Paul stay on course.

At the end of the park, it’s back into the stroller and up the Bouldin hill toward the taco truck. We call in just behind a big order, so take our time in the home stretch, stopping for another run-around in a little neighborhood Dawson Park. You swing (big-kid style) and find a stick with which to smack things.

anticipating tacos
anticipating tacos

At the taco truck, you and Paul do a tremendous amount of hugging as we wait for our food, melting hearts all around. You polish off your “dinosaur taco” (bacon, egg, and spinach bits of real dinosaur), and we head home.


We load you and Paul into your separate carts at Central Market, and begin to shop. You weigh the broccoli for us and request some bell peppers I am sure you will not eat but purchase anyway because I’m a pushover. Better hauls for you are grapes, cherries, and strawberries. We spend some time with the lobsters, and select some cherry yogurt. You help put the groceries on the conveyor belt and pay with the credit card, and home we go.

Inside, you climb immediately into your chair. “I’m waiting for my yogurt,” you inform us, and eat it. “I have to go poop,” you announce, and Dad sits with you in the bathroom. You wash your hands, naked from the waist down, and when I tell you not to bother getting your undies back on because we’ll put a diaper on for nap, you shriek and cry again. I carry you upstairs while you practice your baby wailing. The opportunity to turn on the noise machine and turn down the lights mollifies you, and you go to bed fairly peacefully.

You’re back in action at 2. You set up a cozy nest on the floor and help sign a birthday card for our friend Poppy’s first. “This is a perfect A for her. Dear Poppy, for her birthcake. … I’m almost done. I need to draw a big one for her cause it’s a big birthcake.”


We head for Pinthouse Pizza, where you eat six tiny cupcakes before I cut you off, and play Donkey Kong with Dad. You’re disturbed by the picture on the side of the machine, which features a giant gorilla making off with a blonde lady. Retro. “She’s crying,” you tell me, concerned.


Full of pizza and cupcakes, we head home at 5 and collapse in front of the television. Totoro takes care of us all.

A ruptured blister from your flip flops thwarts a bath. I remove you screaming from the tub, and we focus on your face and hands. At 6:45, you and I are snuggled in Mom-and-Dad’s bed, and read Laundry Day, Brown Bear, and A Snowy Day. Paul stomps in, curious why we aren’t in your room yet, and joins us for the last. You protest bedtime, and I again distract you with the promise of turning off the lights and on the noise machine. “Hold my hand,” you demand, once you’re tucked in, and you take it captive. I gently extract it, stroke your hair, and say goodnight.

a day in your life

To Annie: This is how you spent the day you turned 2 years and 9 months old.

Dad left last night for a work trip to California, so I get up early and arrange everything for a smooth-as-possible exit. (My strategy: minimize transitions.) You and Paul wake up slowly and peacefully, lying quietly in your cribs until I come in at 7:30. You stay snuggled in bed with your five stuffed friends while I get Paul changed and shod. When it’s your turn, you consent to the removal of your night diaper but not to putting on undies. “I want a diaper please,” you tell me in a soft and pitiful voice, so that’s what I put on you. Add too-short pants and pink socks, and we’re ready to go downstairs.

Paul wants to practice his stair-walking, so I carry you and hold his hand. We get into your shoes and coat, snag a chewable vitamin, and head for the door. You climb into the car and then your seat, and munch your way through the breakfast I pre-loaded into your cup holder: buttered toast, a slice of cheddar, and a handful of grapes.

You are not interested in smiling for the camera.
You are not interested in smiling for the camera.

You’re full of questions and information on the drive. “I see a A!” you announce when stop behind a Lagunitas truck at a light. “TWO As!” Later, you inform me that we’re getting off the highway and back on the access road, then that we’re turning across the highway to go to school. You have been asking a lot of detailed questions about our route in the last couple of months, and are proud to showcase your knowledge.

Parked, I unbuckle you, and you climb out of the car with only a brief detour to the front seat. You head straight for the sidewalk, walk happily inside, and wait patiently while we chat with Shanna in the Sea Turtles at Paul’s drop-off. He cries hard when we leave, and as we hold hands and walk downstairs, you say, “It made me sad when Paul cried.” It made me sad, too, I tell you.

In your class, you hug my ankles for a minute while I sign you in, but detach and go quietly to a second breakfast of more toast and canned pears. We wave goodbye.

Your big lesson at school today is on the five senses. With your class, you read I Hear A Pickle. Ms. Mary tells me that when she asks the class whether you can smell with your mouth, you volunteer, “No, we talk a lot with our mouths.” When asked what we do with ears, you say, “We listen at school.” Do you listen at home, too? she asks. “Yeah, we can.”

It’s Wednesday, and I am using date night to move out of my office. Shanna brings you and Paul home and feeds you dinner. At the table, you scoot your chair close to hers and pat her cheek. “It’s okay. It’s okay. Your cheek is very tired. I will make you feel better.”

You take a bath with Paul and air-dry to the tune of “Baby Shark” and “The Wheels on the Bus” on Shanna’s phone, then do a little solo book reading in the nook (still naked).

Shanna takes over reading That’s Not My Puppy and makes connections with you. “Remember when we saw lots of puppies today walking?” Annie: “Yeah!” “Does Sous have a collar?” Annie: “Um, yeah.” You ease into a diaper and clothes. Shanna tends to dress you in your pink, Hold Your Horses shirt; tonight is no different.


I rejoin you, carrying laundry. You help me shake out (vigorously), fold (-ish), and put away your clean clothes. Paul gets out his new sleeping tent—he’s very proud of it—and the two of you romp and squeal inside it for a few minutes. You take a quick Rabumpus ride and then play with the new owl purse Susu got you for Christmas. At 7, I start the lullaby, put Paul in his crib, and then scoop you up and lay you down with your friends. “I want Peter,” you specify, and are cuddling him as I turn off the lights.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years and 8 months old.

You’re up at 7:15 and ready for action. You deliberate between a diaper and undies, go for the undies, and head downstairs for toast and yogurt. “Are we going to school today?” you ask, and are happy to hear there is nothing planned but a family day together. It’s Sunday.

You and Paul finish breakfast and gallivant around the house. I recently devoted a corner of the craft cabinet to your supplies—crayons, paper, scissors, play-doh. You love it, and spend a happy half hour pulling out construction paper, making two small cuts, and gifting it to us. “Here’s a present for you, just in case you need it.” I start making a Christmas sign on some warped foam core I want to use up. You request paint (pink and purple) to add to it. I allow this and regret it immediately.

A few minutes before 9, Dad gets you dressed and bundled up in the stroller for a quick run with Doug. At the conclusion, you make a stop at the Croissant House, your name for the coffee shop in the South Congress Hotel. (It’s right next to the parking garage entrance; for a time you thought all parking garages housed croissants.) I come down from the shower to find you all munching happily, covered in crumbs.

I show you a picture on my phone of you raking leaves with Dad a year ago, and you immediately want to rake leaves. Dad cleans up; Doug takes off; and you, Paul, and I go to retrieve the rusty old rake from under the house and sweep up leaves.

(If you flinched a little at the end of this video, know that I hit stop to redirect you a little farther away from Paul’s face.)


Then, it’s time for the grocery store. We pile into the car and head for Central Market. It’s a family favorite. You and Paul each get a seat in your own shopping cart, and Dad obtains a purple balloon for each of you. You lean sideways to stroke a red bell pepper and suggest we bring it home. You eye the mushrooms, and I hold a bag open so you can drop some in, deciding on the fly we’ll make spaghetti sauce later this week.

You say hello to the lobsters in the tank and select some dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets in the freezer section. Then we get to the really good part: you get to pick out any carton of yogurt you want (it’s Horizon Strawberry this time, featuring an appealing cartoon cow), and then two cookies, which we’ll stretch out for days. In the check-out line, you examine the credit card reader with great interest and help me pull out the card.

Eating your yogurt at the table at home, you inform me you’ve had an accident, so—after finishing that yogurt—we take off your wet clothes and sponge you off. It’s just about naptime, so you get into a diaper, and we set up your sleeping tent. After 10 minutes of hollering about its placement (you want it closer to Paul’s crib so you can poke each other; we demur), you settle down and sleep for a couple of hours.

Paul is still asleep when you wake up, so we bring you into our room and lounge on the bed. You luxuriate in the full attention of both parents for 15 minutes, but are happy when Paul gets up to play with you. You eat a snack (banana, pecans, and a pinch of cookie), put your balloon back on your wrist, and push around your shopping cart. Around 3, we head outside into a gorgeous afternoon.

For the first time, we see you really balancing and scooting on this bike.
For the first time, we see you really balancing and scooting on this bike.

You ride your bike—really ride it!—while Paul pushes the elephant, and Dad and Sous tail us with the stroller. It’s quite a parade. At the playground, you swing and slide and run amok. You and Paul take turns on the tall twirly slide, and Dad teaches you how to climb up a new kind of ladder. It takes you two attempts, and then you’re a pro.

I can't believe you are tall enough for the water fountain now!
I can’t believe you are tall enough for the water fountain now!

When it’s time to head home, you decide to walk. “I need to go potty!” you tell me, and I am grateful for this information although it means braving the park’s public toilet. You sit on it but are spooked by the new environment and do not pee, which results in another accident as we arrive home. We sponge you off again; you opt to conclude the evening wearing nothing but a smock.

A lot going on here.
Just another evening at home.

From your rainbow of delicious foods for dinner—green beans, pink salmon, orange cheese curds, golden mango, and slivers of the red bell pepper you specifically requested at the grocery store—you eat the mango. (Okay, and a couple bites of other things when strongly prompted.)

We drop you in the bathtub and make bubbles with shampoo. You won’t permit much scrubbing but have a good long soak, sliding around and stretching out long after Paul gets out. When you’re all done, you get into your unicorn dress and we snuggle up in bed for an episode of Daniel Tiger and a fingernail trim. You want to stay in our bed for your book, so you go pick one out for us (The Paper Bag Princess). We read it. Then I carry you to your room, lay you in your crib despite your protestations, and run down to get your teddy bear, to whom you have recently become very attached. We say goodnight. “It’s very dark!” you pipe up in alarm, so we turn the lights on a couple of clicks for you. Goodnight, Annie.

a day in your life

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

You start coughing off and on at about 5 but raise no alarms. At 7:10, though, we see you standing up in your crib and peeking past the window shade, so head up to get you. I do a little slapstick for both of you while we wait for Dad to arrive; then he picks up Paul, and I pick up you. You’re coughing. It doesn’t sound great, but you don’t feel hot. So, onward we go, into undies, socks, and shoes.

At the breakfast table, you have little enthusiasm for your usual favorites: “baby cereal” (plain yogurt with a quarter of a banana and some fortified oat dust) and hot buttered toast. You do eat the yogurt when Dad starts making moves toward the door. You all head off for school at 8.

You drop Paul off in the Bumblebee class and walk carefully downstairs to the Peacocks. You head to the potty first thing, the routine for all the potty-trained kids, then wash your hands at the sink and sit down for second breakfast. It’s a normal morning—playground, lunch, and nap—in perfect fall weather.

You take a good nap but wake up in bad shape. Ms. Carina calls me at 2:45 to report you have a high fever. You are relegated to a mat upstairs with another sick kiddo waiting for pick-up, and I retrieve you in short order. “Let’s go home, and snuggle up in bed, and watch A Snowy Day,” I suggest as I buckle you in the carseat. “No,” you say, “We’ll go to the doctor first, and then we’ll go home.”


Smart answer, kiddo, but things aren’t quite that bad. We make good time on a quiet drive home, and execute the plan as stated. You drink my special sick-kid cocktail of one part milk, one part chocolate milk, and absorb quite a bit of television.

About 20 minutes into our Dora marathon, we get a special treat: Aunt Peanut and Uncle Dan arrive, visiting from California for the weekend. Peanut joins us in the sick bed while Dan takes Sous for a long walk, and we do a little catching up in low voices while you do your best to tune us out.


You and I keep lounging while Dad picks up Paul and Peanut and Dan pick up tacos for dinner. You take a very short nap, then tell me you need to go to the doctor. Concerned but not entirely trusting your judgement in the matter, I administer some ibuprofen.

Dad and Paul arrive home, and he swaps in with you while I head downstairs. “I need something,” you tell him. “A snack would be nice.”

Now you are eating goldfish crackers and drinking chocolate milk in our bed. Who wouldn’t want to be sick?

You join us downstairs briefly, sit at the table, and decline dinner. You are charmed when I pretend to turn the electric candles on and off by magic; I can’t stand the deception, though, and reveal the remote. You commandeer it.

When Mr. Paul makes a play for your baggy of goldfish, you smack him in the chest, provoking stern words and a retreat upstairs. You ask to sleep in our bed tonight. When I decline, you negotiate: “How bout I sleep in your bed for a minute, then I sleep in my bed.”

Okay, sure. It’s 6:40. We lay down in Mom and Dad’s bed for a minute. Quiet, we hear sounds of play downstairs, and you suggest we join in. “We have a little time to play before bed,” you inform me. It’s true. You help Peanut figure out what objects will fit into the packing tube she’s playing with, and turn the candles off and on.


It’s really time for bed now, so we go up, change dresses and diapers, and read A Greyhound, a Groundhog—one of my favorites. We turn on the humidifier and the noise machine, sing the song, and lower you into your crib. “I want a sleep sack,” you say. “You don’t fit into sleep sacks anymore.” “Because I got bigger?” That’s right.

“I want my blanket,” you tell me as you flip onto your stomach, and I tuck it around you, rub your back, and tell you I love you. “Oh, it’s so dark!!” you exclaim as I’m leaving, and I keep the lights on just one click so you don’t get scared. Good night, Annie. Feel better.