a day in your life

To Annie:

This is how you spent the day you turned 7 years and 11 months old.

You sleep a bit late, but emerge in good spirits for a breakfast of mini-pancakes. You settle into the breakfast nook with your current Cat Kid read.


We leave on our walk to school. You sneak your hand into mine, and we talk. Dad practices identifying birdsong. As you approach the school, Paul takes off running, preferring to do the last stretch on his own. You walk along with Dad, conscientious about his feelings.

I hope it’s a good day at school—we don’t hear otherwise. You meet us both at pick-up, and walk to front of school so Paul can spend quarters on a sticker and pencil. We pass first-grade teacher Ms. Colston, who complements your Christmas sweater. It’s always the right season.

On our walk home, I tell you that Granddad and Susu’s friend Ron has died. You want to know how, and how old he was. I tell you. Later, you confess you don’t remember what he looked like and ask to see a picture. Then you remember.

Can you go to the park? Of course. You hook up with Alex there. It’s a beautiful afternoon. You come in for a few minutes, and you make her a package, wrapped in orange felt and fastened with tape, for her to open later. You play back at the park until 5, and say goodbye.


You agree to a 10-minute trial of a Pokemon movie for movie night, and it takes. When the main character sets his butterfly Pokemon free to pursue its destiny, you wipe tears from your eyes. We pause for dinner—a leftover slice of pizza and steamed broccoli—and pile back into a snuggle stack on the couch for the dramatic conclusion.

It’s bedtime. You brush your teeth and change clothes without complaint, then hand me Framed to read. I do a chapter and say goodnight at 7:30. Paul comes out at 8, and you follow, escorting him back to bed. I see you again at 8:30. “I have a piece of the braces wax in my hair,” you inform me. Ms. Ruiz pulled another one out of your hair earlier in the day. “I was afraid it was a beetle.” I trim it out. “Thanks for your help, Mom.” You climb back into bed.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 7 years and 10 months old.

You’re eating pancakes-by-Dad at the breakfast table when I meet you, dressed and ready, and humbly requesting a little Harry Potter 5 reading. I oblige for a page or two, and we pack up to go. It’s chilly, so you put on your big coat, and we walk to school through the wreckage of trees left from last week’s ice storm.


It’s almost a normal day at school, but at recess you stand up fast under the play structure and take a small gouge of skin out of your back. Nurse Ray at school patches you up. I see you again at 3:10 (after a meeting with the Principal about the school yearbook), and we load up into the CRV for a short drive home.

You’re excited to start working on Valentines for your class and make a few for your favorite friends. Your afternoon screen time involves some instructional videos for healthy recipes, and you bring me to the kitchen to show me how you’ve set up the materials for a seasonal treat: PBJ sandwiches with apples for bread and shapes cut in the middle with cookie cutters. You are proud and so am I. We build a couple together and eat them while Dad sears a steak for dinner.

You decline to eat that steak—“I’d like it if I didn’t know it came from an animal”—but do enjoy a roll, some fruit, and a single shred of cabbage. You and Paul negotiate which movie to watch. Your hardline Harry Potter stance wins the day, and we hit the couch for the first half of the second movie.


At 7:10, we stop for the night and move onto tooth hygiene. You do a good brush and open your mouth, nervously but obligingly, for a turn of the expander crank. At your request, I take a picture of the wound on your back for your inspection. It’s moderately gross.


You climb into bed, and I bring up the “grandmother books” to read. We start with Carolyn, and recall how your whistling skills and love of rolls are likely due to her. You hug all the pictures of Granddad, and remember that Nancy is the great aunt I visited a few weeks ago. I promise to read you the Jeanie book tomorrow, and hug you goodnight. Goodnight!

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 7 years and 9 months old.

It’s the first day back to school after the longest winter break in the history of the world. You two are excited. We’re all excited. Dad reminds you through breakfast that the time is going to move quickly and we need to keep up the pace. Twenty-five minutes until we walk out the door. “Mom, do we have time to make chocolate pancakes?” We do. Fifteen minutes until we walk out the door. “Can I wrap a present for Alex?” Okay, why not. “Mom, are my leopard socks clean?” I’ll check; you brush your teeth.

We make it out the door on time and have a lovely, lovely walk to school. We discuss the moon phase (waning gibbous), and you tuck your hands into my sleeve for warmth. We converge on the school with many other relieved-looking families, right at the first bell. You give Dad and I both hugs and go on your way.

You report a normal day. Your teacher was there, and you were most excited to see Alex, who loved her gift (a squishmallow). Dad picks you up at 3:10 and walks home. He lets you start screen time while he sits back in front of his own for more meetings. You pick video games on the big screen: DragonQuest and Lego Harry Potter. I’m home late-ish from the office, so we let it go a little long.



Cooking feels hard, so we drive over to Home Slice for a quick dinner. You enjoy a slice of cheese pizza and the meatball bits Paul picks off of his. It’s a beautiful night, 72 and low humidity. We all enjoy sitting outside and chatting about nothing in particular.

We drive home while you entertain us with some experimental humor (what’s funny and why is of great interest to you right now). You decide we’re going to do some family yoga, and Dad notches a lifetime accomplishment by teaching you sun salutations out of his 20-year-old Ashtanga book.


It’s 6:45, and you elect to head to bed early for more reading time in Harry Potter 5. We finally finished the 4th book and watched the movie last week, and you’re extremely motivated to get into this one. It is definitely too mature for you, but I’m counting on your interest to wane before it gets traumatizing. You hold the light for me while I read. At 7:30; I say goodnight and climb down from your loft. I see you twice more when you come out for water and then later to tell me politely that you can hear the video I’m watching on Twitter. Note taken.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is what happened on the day you turned 7 years and 8 months old.

You and Paul sleep in until about 7, giving me time to get deeply into poster making for the Cultural Festival later this morning. When you do get up, you give me a hug and launch pretty seamlessly into panda play in the backyard. Sweet. I head up to the school while you hang out with Dad for another hour.

You’re among the first to arrive at the Cultural Festival, my favorite school event so far. Families from the school have set up tables in the hallways with games and toys and clothes and food from their countries’ cultures. You and Paul make your first stop at Mexico and play a game of loteria. Next up is Australia, where Juke of Juke’s Auto Repair (and Australia) explains boomerangs and plays a didgeridoo. We move onto the Travis High School mariachi band’s performance in the cafeteria, and pick out some hand-painted ornaments in the holiday market, made of recycled light bulbs and sold by 3rd-grade-teacher Ms. Etzel.

"Mom, can I?"
“Mom, can I?”

You pull me back into the hallway to try some jalebi from the Afghanistan table—it looks like a funnel cake and hits the spot. I sample some excellent tea, and almost get tears in my eyes seeing all the Afghani fathers in their traditional dress dishing out an elaborate buffet of homemade food. We snag passport stamps from Colombia, Canada, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Panama, and Brazil, where you go back for seconds of pao de queijo. I bring Dad back half a Guatemalan tamale, and we watch the school choir.


You head home with Dad and set up an animal rescue facility in your room. I visit you there when I arrive, and submit for your care a stuffed cow I found limping on the road and want to return to its farm. “Mom, if it was on the road, it probably doesn’t live on a farm: it’s a wild cow. It needs to be adopted.” So you set me up with the paperwork, and I assume responsibility for a new dependent.

You spend your 30 screen-time minutes watching Johnathan Bird’s Blue World videos about sea snakes and other fauna. The boys leave on a bike ride, and you notice a tennis court is free, so we go play some pickleball.

When the courts are wet, they are ours!
When the courts are wet, they are ours!

We’re sitting on the top of the hill watching 3-year-olds run away from their parents when Paul and Dad find us again. We collectively cajole you into a trip to Costco. Shopping hungry, we come home with a number of “did we really need this?” treats, but hey, it’s the holidays.

Home again, you watch Dad play some of his video game (God of War—boy, does he love it) and then decide to go hawk some lemonade at the park with Paul. You sell zero cups but have a good time on the playground.

At your request, we eat dinner on the deck, in the dark, on this humid, 74-degree December day. You have two half macarons for dessert and take a bath with Paul, your long legs hanging over the side of the tub while you ask me questions about the lyrics to De Colores and the evolution patterns of certain pokemon.

After a good tooth brushing and some new clothes, you climb up into bed. Dad goes with you. You decide you’re going to read to him tonight, and take the lead on a few chapters of Dog Man. We say goodnight at 7:30. We’ve just today replaced your old “okay to wake” clock—the one that turned green to let you know when wake-up time arrived—with a regular old alarm clock, tall red numbers visible across the room for all to read. You are no little kid anymore, my girl. No you are not.

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.

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 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 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.

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.