a day in your life

To Anne: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 11 months old.

You wake up slowly and in the dark thanks to the recent time change, the pointlessness of which stands out to us all. The morning routine is pretty painless today. You retry your glittery shoes I bought in a fit of despair about you never wearing shoes again. You love them but they itch so you hate them. This choice later causes you grief on the playground when Ms. Liz requires you to keep them on.

Dad takes you to school, per our new routine with my new job: he’s on drop-off; I’m on pick-up. You sail into your class like the queen.

You create imaginary worlds with June in “Dramatic Play Center,” and discuss how germs spread with your class because, well, there’s a global pandemic. We’re happy to observe you washing your hands while counting to 20.

Annie and June
Annie and June
Ms. Liz explains how germs spread. Topical.
Ms. Liz explains how germs spread and how to wash your hands. Topical. 

I pick you up and play stories on the way home. My own storytelling well finally ran dry, and I downloaded four different stories-for-kids podcasts. Our favorite is Circle Round, where they do well-produced versions of folk tales from all over the world. I tell myself there’s some cultural literacy built in. We listen to “The Dozen Loaves of Bread” about a generous baker with ungrateful customers.

Dad has made chicken for dinner, which you don’t eat. We spend a lovely late evening on a “run” through the park. We pass under the bridge by our creek, where a neighbor? random music lover? frustrated SXSW performer? has taken to playing the guitar. You and Paul run to the bench by the creek where neighbors tend tend plants and place renegade Buddha statues. We cross the bridge and snake behind your future elementary school for a romp on the playground. We find that someone else has painted and left their own “love rocks” on the trail.You walk Sous all the way home.

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Bedtime is a little prolonged (thanks again, time change!). Dad tells the latest in his Smaug series, and we say goodnight.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 10 months old.

You and Paul are up and playing diligently at five till seven. Dad knocks on your door at 7:10 and, through the door, reminds you to work in some morning-list items while you’re at it.

I love this shot.
I love this shot.

You chirp back, “We went potty and washed hands!” We take you at your word. After a few more minutes, we insert ourselves to achieve the bare minimum to get downstairs, to our usual healthy breakfast of hot buttered toast, pancakes, and dried mango. No meal is complete these days without listening to the 1950s narration of The Pokey Little Puppy, so of course we do that.

Dad drives you to school, and you read road signs on the way. There, you race in without a backward glance.

Principal Paula visits your class to read a book. “Yes,” you later confirm. “Dmitri. It’s about, um, peace. No, friendship. But it gets a little wild in the middle,” you add with a chuckle.

At lunch, chili burns your mouth, but you persevere. You like the way they serve broccoli. Your whole class makes leopard masks, headbands, and tails, which you model for us later.

Picturing your whole class running around in masks like this is, I admit, a little scary.
Picturing your whole class running around in masks like this is, I admit, a little scary.
"Mom, can you get out of here please?" (P.S. That kid stage right is Moses, and he's your first crush.)
“Mom, can you get out of here please?” (P.S. That kid stage right is Moses. He is your first crush.)

I arrive at four, and you’re in block center as usual, telling me you didn’t even get to play for 20 minutes!! I offer to get Paul first, and you accept. When we come in, you wrap up your imagined story and grab items from your art cubby. You race down the hall barefooted, and out into the 50-degree drizzle.

In the car you ask for a story “about the hyenas and giraffes and wolves—” “And lions!” Paul adds. “Yeah, lions!” you agree. “And dogs and leopards and black panthers—” “And turtles and dinosaurs!” And, and, and… And so I am inspired to tell you the story of Noah’s Ark. You are into it. 40 days and 40 nights, all the animals, two by two, and the dove with a spring of leaves in its beak. We gloss over everyone else’s death by drowning.

We arrive at home to find Aunt Camei! Hello! You are shy for 15 seconds and then inviting her up to see your new bookshelves, and to lifeguard you and Paul jumping off your beds. Then she MUST hear The Shy Little Kitten, and then you ask her to put on “Old Town Road” once, and again, and again, and then it’s blasting on repeat in the TV room while you sing and dance, and Paul is swinging pillows at you until you yell in protest, and it’s the best and worst moment in your whole life.

Dinner is pan pizza (YUM), which you nibble at. Then we’re back upstairs, looking for clues to the whereabouts of Holly Shiftwell. We track her through the bedrooms, quite the pair of sleuths. Paul tags in as playmate, and you’re off and running. We close the evening with a relaxing game of car wash, wherein Dad gets in table pose on his hands and knees, you crawl under him, and he lowers his belly onto you and shakes you back and forth. Just the thing to settle you down for bedtime.

We coax you through tooth-brushing and into storytime. Your pick is a scratch-and-sniff book based on a Nickelodeon show we’ve never watched. I make a silent vow to hide it in the Goodwill pile when you’re not paying attention. I ask what kind of story you want, and you and Paul decide to take turns telling your own. No objections from me! I tuck Paul in while you close us out with an elaborate tale of a magical, multi-generational leopard family. “Their ancestors were STILL ALIVE, even from ROMAN TIMES! …Mom, do I have ancestors?”

I say goodnight. You emerge for a band-aid. Paul comes out needing to pee. Dad checks the monitor and notices he’s in your bed, and intervenes. Paul needs pants, and a hug, and one more drink of water. You’re thirsty, too. Okay, guys. Goodnight.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 9 months old.

You stride into our room with a smile. It’s time to get up, and you’re pleased to be first. I sit down to offer you my lap, and you snuggle into it. Paul arrives a minute or two later with the entire stuffed cow collection. “Do you want to play?” You do. You name the cows Tabibi (the baby), Snow Lilly (the sister—that’s you), and Sally (mom), and get right to it. Dad and I let it go on for a few minutes before we gently insinuate ourselves to get your morning lists rolling. You both get through them with only a little harrumphing, and we’re down to breakfast. Another day of dried mango and mini-pancakes. Mmm, glucose.

Dad takes you to school, where you both want to be dropped off second. Paul wins, but you sneak across the hall after Dad has left you in the All Stars for one last hug—an irresistible request. Your War on Shoes continues unabated, and he notices that yours are, of course, already off.

It’s a good day at school. You spend circle time talking about the calendar, the days of the week, and the number date. Apparently you even nap for an hour.

That's you with Ms. Liz in front.
That’s you with Ms. Liz in front.

Dad picks you up relatively early due to news coverage suggesting the storm of the century is headed our way. At 4pm, he finds you and Paul playing together on the playground, and when you spot him, you both run up for a hug.

On the way home you ask for a story (“and it’s a long one”), but instead you all spot several graveyards and talk about them instead. The conversation shifts to meteorology. “I have a hypothesis,” you offer: “It’s a scientist on the radio telling us about the weather.” Dad offers that it’s probably a reporter who had heard from a meteorologist, who is a scientist of the weather. Then you ask how they knew when there would be tornadoes, and is it when there is warm air and cold air in a mix together? And yeah, you officially know as much as we do about tornadoes.

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You meet me on the stairs at home, excited to show me your bubble necklace from a classmate’s birthday, then settle into Dad’s lap for a chapter of Harry Potter while Paul and I assemble dinner. We eat. Then, exciting surprise: Dad has discovered a previously-unwatched, 7-minute Frozen video about Anna’s birthday. We watch it three times, and then go outside to blow some of your bubbles and check on the weather.

Somehow this turns into a completely awesome Frozen 2 dance party. We do the whole soundtrack. It’s outstanding.

We head upstairs for the final routine, and I read you the current favorite: Super Happy Magic Forest. (Dennis, no!!) We eventually get you into bed, and Dad tells the final story, about Smaug’s 76th treasure (Paladium, and he turns everyone into superheroes).

We think we’re done, but there’s still that storm. At 8:15, you see lightning out the window, and you both run into our room with this important information. I head back with you to watch from Paul’s bed, and Dad spots us on the monitor and joins us (also, of course, with Sous in a light panic).

kids on monitor 1-10 storm

We spend an hour watching the storm. You declare yourself the WEATHER REPORTER and keep us up-to-date. “Weather report: BIG chance of lightning. Medium rain. … You don’t need to watch—I’ll give you the report.” In your spare time, you propose we invent a language. “Uhhh-hhh: means YES. Uhhhhhh: means THUNDER.” It’s tonal? Somehow I also end up with alphabet stickers on my face.

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Anyway, eventually I’m falling out of the bed, and the storm is passing but not quite gone. So we send you back to your respective beds, and I spread a blanket on the floor for me. We all fall asleep: Paul, then you, then me.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 8 months old.

I look up at the clock from my phone, where I’m browsing the paper, and discover to my shock that it’s 7:15. You and Paul are still snoozing. I come in your room and sort of stare at you like a creep, and you wake up within a minute. “Paul, look, the light!!”

You see me and hop out of bed, running for the potty. Beating Paul there has become your central motivation through your morning list, and you leave him in the dust (and crying—I literally turn the clock back and narrate a do-over where he gets to the potty first). You slip on your new glittery shoes, which have not overcome your complaints about shoes being SO HOT and basically the worst thing in the world, but at least you’ll put them on. While I finish up with Paul, you head downstairs, in the dark, by yourself, and set out the pancakes and dried mango for breakfast. Wow.

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It’s 40 degrees and raining outside, so of course you two want to spend some time prancing around the front yard in shirt sleeves, and do. At least you trade up to boots instead of ballet flats. We make it to the car, and to school. Drop-off is complicated by my betrayal of Paul’s wish to carry the umbrella, but you encounter June immediately and join up happily with your class.

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It’s Spanish day, so you spend the morning learning some words and a new song. I get a phone call at noon from your teacher to tell me you and your friend Charlie were running opposite directions around a corner and collided in the face. You have a major goose egg on your forehead and spend quite a bit of quality time in safe space to recuperate.

I see you a few minutes after five, so engaged in a read-aloud you have trouble noticing me. When you do, though, you pop out, empty your art cubby into my pocket, and tear off for the front door. I sign your face-wound incident report, acquire your brother, and follow in your wake. You get a good dose of the air vent on the way to the car, and we hold hands in a chain to cross the street. You open a present in the car you think is for you but is actually for me: a tote bag you have painted for Dad and I for Christmas. Cute!

We listen to the Frozen 2 soundtrack all the way home, Paul cackling with laughter to Olaf’s silly number, and you belting out “Show Yourself” with gusto and debating the finer points of Elsa’s self-discovery with me. At home, you talk me into some goldfish crackers as an appetizer, and I boil water for tortellini while you snack and Paul has a screaming fit on the front step (he wanted to open the door by himself, and did NOT approve of my returning to the car for our bags).

You are squinting at the Christmas tree in an effort to only see the lights. "My eyes can do cool things."
You are squinting at the Christmas tree in an effort to only see the lights. “My eyes can do cool things.”

Peace returns, and we eat heartily. You and Paul pretend a cardboard box is a bathtub, and play kazoos along with yet more Frozen 2.

"Where the north wind meets the sea..."
“Where the north wind meets the sea… Bzzz bzzz bzzz bzzz”

We make it upstairs, and wash face and hands and teeth, and you run dramatically to the toilet, telling me you haven’t peed since the morning. I almost believe you. You’re pretty wound up and decline to pick a book, but I get you into bed with the lure of a story about Lightning and Holly and the boa constrictor friends and ELSA. At some point everyone crosses into the spirit world and turns into a skeleton car, and Elsa makes a giant ice slide to get home since Lightning can’t drive on his bone wheels. Paul keeps adding plot twists that begin, “But then, they ACCIDENTALLY…”

At some point you ask me whether wind can blow down a house, and I tell you about tornadoes. Silence. Then, firmly: “Mom, you should NOT have told us about that.” Sorry!! Appreciate your notes on my parenting, as always.

We say our good-nights a little late, and you fall asleep quickly, presumably to have nightmares about tornadoes. Goodnight, little one.

a day in your life

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

I see you at 6:30, still snuggled in bed, when Paul emerges from your room to tell me something about his airplane. I pay you a quick visit, smooth your blanket, and ask you both to stay in bed until the light turns green at 7:05. You do not stay in bed, but you follow the real rule and play semi-quietly in your room. You bring the toy castle into Paul’s bed and set up a village. At 7:05 I open the door to find you both perched on top of the dresser, demonstrating once again why we have bolted it to the wall.

You are not interested in starting your morning routine, and it’s Sunday, so we’re in no hurry. I tell you it’s okay to keep playing and just come out when you’re ready for breakfast or help. You say a cheerful farewell to me but ask Sous to stay in the room. When she leaves with me, you ask me to walk back in so she’ll follow me. Smart, Annie. I don’t think I’m supposed to say it to you, but you’re smart.

Dad helps you get dressed in a weather-appropriate outfit for once, and we only tussle over shoes. You just hate them. All shoes. All of them.

Eventually, you are buckled into the stroller for a run with Dad, with a critical stop at new-favorite Howdy Donut. You lick the chocolate icing off of yours and, when you arrive home, present me with several pieces of the remainder squashed together—a donut sandwich for Mom. Aw, thanks, sweetie.

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We embark on three pretty great hours of playtime. I blow up some balloons, and you and Paul have a party. He builds things with legos while you put scotch tape over headlamp lights and pull the shades down for “a concert.” We make tea, which evolves into a large-scale lovey tea party. “Mom, may you fix Chickie?” you ask, employing your latest adorable verbal mistake. We swing in the hammock and talk about the seasons, and why it’s cooler in the fall. I offer you probably-accurate information.

Paul has been skipping his nap reliably on the weekends and then falling asleep in whatever moving vehicle we put him in, so we try to play this to our advantage and head out for another long stroller ride at 12:30. You are not enthused, but a mention of ice cream motivates you to buckle in. Twenty minutes in, your playmate does indeed fall asleep. You entertain yourself by counting as high as you can, inventing excellent numbers on your way, like “two-hundred-onety-one” (it comes after 201). At Congress and Riverside, you decide you’d like to walk, and you do, and cover probably a mile under your own power.

You are delightedly sticking your arm into all the holes in the brickwork.
You are delightedly sticking your arm into all the holes in the brickwork.

We are not the only ones who decided Amy’s on South Congress sounded like a good idea on this gorgeous Sunday afternoon, and we can’t actually face a 50-person line. So Dad, sleeping-Paul and Sous head home while you and I explore South Congress’s ice cream options. (Cupcake truck for the win.) We come home, take in an episode of Doc McStuffins, and we grown-ups let our feet recover from our 8-mile day.

The Crowders come over for the afternoon. You and Eleanor don a series of princess dresses and play pretty independently for a couple of hours. A few art installation pieces go up. We serve a fabulous dinner; you eat the corn nuts.

Artists: Annie and Eleanor
Artists: Annie and Eleanor

6:15 arrives, and we are all beat. Dad’s flying to California tonight, so we say goodbye to our friends and install you in front of the television so we can get things cleaned up. You give Dad a big hug goodbye. You recover from the TV being turned off, and we read Going on Bear Hunt. I tell a final bedtime story about Finn and Holly helping Santa deliver presents (moral: team work is good). I move the turtle lamp onto your dresser so you can both see it glow through the night. You fall asleep quickly after your busy day.

a day in your life

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.

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Winnie, June, DaRong, and you, crafting.
Winnie, June, DaRong, and you, crafting.

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.

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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.

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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.

a day in your life

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.

Your teacher writes: Dot Art. She is also telling me about how Mom fixed her bracelet.
Your teacher writes: Dot Art. She is also telling me about how Mom fixed her bracelet.

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.

Goodnight, goofball.

a day in your life

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

At 7:05, you come in our room for morning hugs, then make me a pretend smoothie for breakfast and get dressed and ready with Dad. Downstairs, you and I make a real smoothie while Paul stays away to avoid the loud blender noise. We add a side of mini-pancakes, or as you’re calling them today: lion ears. You continue your practice of inhabiting the characters that disturb you, and have been pretending to be a hyena for a week or so now, ever since The Lion King became your go-to movie. (Just to connect the dots in case 4-year-old logic doesn’t translate: Hyenas eat lions, in your mind, hence lion ears for breakfast.)

Over breakfast, from the table, you call out to inform me: “Mom, every time I do something, it feels a little harder, so I think I’m flying.” Sounds awesome.

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It’s Saturday, so after breakfast you climb into your stroller and request all three pairs of your sunglasses—which you never wear, but maybe today’s the day. We buckle in and head for the trail, enjoying signs of progress on Little Stacy Park renovation. It’s hot on the trail, and Sous can’t swim thanks to deadly algae, but at least it’s early, and there are a few clouds. You and Paul have saved some toast for the turtles, and we also meet a new family of nutria, our pond’s cutest invasive species.

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You ask for stories, and Dad and I offer the requested plot summaries of The Lion King (you make me tell this twice since I tried the highlights-only version on round one), A Christmas Carol (“why do we only watch that movie at Christmas?), the Boy Who Cried Wolf (we introduced this one for its “stop whining” moral, but you’re clearly just in it for the wolf), and The Tortoise and the Hare. I hold you up to a break in the construction barrier to check out our other playground-in-progress at Butler Park. At the taco truck, you eat in the stroller so you don’t have to put your shoes on.

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You and Paul bomb around the house while Dad works in the yard. We execute a modest art project. At the grocery store, you sip on a half-ounce sample of juice for 15 minutes and help me find supplies for Paul’s birthday cupcakes. From the cart, you load items onto the check-out belt and ask to push the buttons on the credit card machine.

We have a quick lunch—cherries, cheese, corn nuts—and wish Paul a good nap. You and I call Susu to wish her a happy birthday, and you fill her in on all your major news, including receipt of a sweet card and pictures from Auntie Peanut (thank you, Peanut—they loved them!!). Then it’s to work: we have cupcakes to make. You do all the scooping, stirring, and egg cracking—anything I will let you attempt, which means anything not sharp or hot. We make a mess baking and then move onto frosting. Adding the food coloring is big fun.

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I’m beat, so we sit down for one episode of Doc McStuffins before Paul’s up and you’re back at it, racing toy cars around the house and pitching each other ever-evolving pretend scenarios. I dabble but mainly let you run it together. Dad returns from an errand and suggests a visit to the wading pool for 45 minutes before it sinks in. I help you into your suits and wave goodbye.

The pool is crowded, but you are ready to swim. In your goggles, you get your head under water and your feet off the ground and kicking. First swim??? Let’s call it. You’re home an hour later and into dry clothes for a dinner out. I motivate you through the change by offering Paul the chance to open a present before we go. He selects the box that includes a turtle-themed bracelet for you both. You don’t wait for the offer, just pluck yours out of the box and slide it on. We’re out the door.

Tonight we’re trying Matt’s El Rancho, Austin Tex-Mex institution and apparently where to find Republican party members in central Austin. We could have been in MY hometown. But the food is pretty good, and you and Paul are champs in a noisy and hectic environment. I happen to have quarters on me and introduce you to a gumball machine. You chew a giant ball with determination and grit. Paul eats his.

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I teach you how to keep your napkin in your lap and eat your ketchup with a spoon instead of sucking it off your finger. Mother of the Year. You actually really do great. A year ago in this environment you would have gone to pieces; now you’re a pro.

Back home, you and Paul take a shower with Dad, who gets you thoroughly clean. You “teach him” how to scrub the glass, and then diligently wash and rinse a dozen tiny toys. You’re winding up for a frenzy, but we manage to lure you into attention to a couple of books: Your Body Belongs To You (ironic as you had to be manhandled into sitting still for it) and The Grouchy Ladybug. As I tuck you in, you tell me, “The sooner we go to sleep, the sooner it’s Paul’s party!” Dad ends the night with a lively encore of The Tortoise and the Hare. You pop up one more time to pee, and then, the end.

a day in your life

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

You wake up at 6:15, probably when Sous clatters down the stairs, and I hear Paul tell you, “Dad’s back home!” Which is true, as of five hours ago. Further sleep is out of the question, but you stay in bed for a while, playing, and at 10 till 7 start building a little fort cubby in the nook between your beds. You tumble out the door of your room when the light turns green and report gleefully that you’ve been bunking together on the floor.

You get ready pretty much by yourself, hooray. I clip on your unicorn jewelry, and you bring me a sparkly hair pin to administer. You pull on the new strappy sandals you picked out at Target last weekend because you think they look like “up shoes,” your word for high heels. You and Paul wait for each other like good teammates, and we all go downstairs together.

Breakfast begins with a jelly bean, back-pay for Paul’s potty-poop last night, and I toast waffles while you break in the new giant box in the living room as a playhouse. You eat, briefly, and trade blueberries. Then it’s back to the box, and shortly out to the car. Dad drives you to school, and you merge into the great 4-year-old mass.

I hear the following stories of your day: at nap, Ms. Jolene takes away your unicorn lovey because you’re playing with it disruptively, but Ms. Felicia gives it back later. You learn something at circle time, but you can’t remember what. You eat a popsicle to celebrate Analeeah’s last day, and you make it last by sucking the juice out of it and leaving the white ice. (You are really good at savoring food you love.) At the end of the day, you are having a dance party with the few kids left and pitch a small fit when asked to put on your shoes because THEY ARE NOT DANCING SHOES.

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I pick up Paul first for a change, and find you playing with a gauzy scarf. You are excited to see us and express this by sprinting off down the hall, with scarf, sans shoes. I coax you back into the class and put your shoes on for you. You love them, but they frustrate you. OH, life. Paul and I head out, and you lie on the ground in protest. No, it does not make sense. The helper in your classroom bribes you with a banana in exchange for following us. I do not let you eat it unless you agree to share it with Paul; you decline.

In the car, some indie band is singing about dying, so you ask me for a story about when Elsa died, “and it’s a long one.” So I tell a story about Elsa dying peacefully on her couch at the end of a long and happy life, and all of her friends giving her a nice funeral on her mountain and telling stories about her every year so they never forget her. It is not our first such story. You are rapt.

As we near home, your crankiness emerges and you experiment to achieve the most grating possible whine. I distract you semi-successfully with a discussion of how highways work. We notice the wildflowers on the west side have finally been mowed down for the year, and miss them.

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At home, you help me thaw some bread to add to the delicious braised chicken Dad has made. You eat a whole peach and your hunk of bread, and reject everything else. We linger over dinner and make a quick visit to your new playhouse box before I carry you upstairs to get ready for bed. We reach the end of your daily compliance, and you fight us all the way through bedtime prep. “I don’t know HOW to wash my hands! I don’t know how to do ANY OF IT.” I wish I could put into writing the sound of the drama-sobs, but then again I don’t. Dad finally sets a sand timer to indicate how long you have before we run out of time for a book, and you lose it completely.

Finally we are in bed. You did miss the book, but you’re down for a Mom-original story about all your favorite characters working late in their tower office and watching the fireworks. They all agreed on what to eat for dinner, and Mater went out to get pizza and peas. Elsa froze hers because she likes them cold.

Dad wraps it up with the song about the hole in the ground. The green grass grows all around and around, and the green grass grows all around.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 2 months old.

I’m downstairs when I hear you emerge from the room, and you call me from the top of the stairs. It’s wake-up time, but you have brought your pillow and blanket to snuggle down on the floor in our room. “I really like the way the carpet feels on my feet,” you tell me, as you create your campsite. Paul isn’t up yet, so I seize the opportunity for a chat. Dad flew out last night for his monthly California trip, and we strategize about how to make it though.

“Yeah, I told Dad we’d work as a team,” you say. “That means we help everybody stay safe, and do what the grown-ups tell you.”

Close enough. I suggest that you start getting ready by yourself, and after a brief detour for a bug-bite band-aid, you seize the opportunity to get ahead of Paul in the box-checking. You’re on the potty when he’s getting out of bed, and blaze through the rest of your list.

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We head downstairs, and make waffles and pancakes for breakfast. We eat together like civilized people, and then head out to the car. You climb into your new carseat and buckle your own self in—still rare and worth celebrating.

In the car, you request your usual brand-new and very-long story. I refuse to tell another one about Bambi getting shot, so you and Paul specify that YOU are the hunters in this story, and you only shoot bad animals, so you and Bambi figure out a way to get along. He even invites you into his castle that Elsa-deer made of trees. (Thumper, unfortunately, is a bad animal, and gets what’s coming to him. That was Paul’s call.) We draw this out all the way to school.

Dropping Paul in the Pandas, you pay a visit to the guinea pig and run your fingers through the sand in the sensory table. Then you give Paul a hug and head to the Owls. You’re a little reluctant to enter class, often the case on Monday morning. I get it. Your teacher Ms. Jolene is in a medical boot with a sprained ankle, gamely limping around. You linger next to me but ultimately consent to push me out and move on to your day. I don’t hear much about it other than late-afternoon emergency drill that has you all outside for 20 minutes.

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I pick you up on the late side, around 5:30. You’re stringing beads with DaRong and some other friends. Happy to see me but also happy to be engaged in your activity. We pick up Paul, and you use the potty in his class, “to show him how.”

On the way out, we pass Ms. Rachelle, coming in to pick up her son Boden. You compliment each others’ shoes. “I always wanted grown-up shoes like that,” you tell her. “I always wanted sparkly shoes like you have,” she says. “I love sparkles.”

You climb in the car and buckle your own seatbelt, again. The half-cookie I’ve dangled as a move-it-along incentive may have motivated you. I really do apologize for using food treats as rewards. Wiring your brain this way feels both like a parenting failure and an inevitability.

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We tell more stories on the way home. Again the request is for shooting deaths; I tell a story about Elsa planning her 6th birthday party instead. At home, I toast leftover pizza for dinner and wash some peaches. You enjoy a leisurely meal and volunteer for clean-up crew when Paul has an accident (just pee).

You spend your last few minutes downstairs decorating your new playhouse with markers. You ask me to write a 4 and then write your own. I ask if it’s your first “4,” an you tell me it is. Totally possible.

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It’s time to go upstairs, and miraculously, you both do. We wash hands and face, brush our teeth, and pick books. Your pick is one Aunt Peanut gave us, about a red cat who has an adventure that happens to be aligned with the alphabet. Then we read Paul’s choice, about a garbage truck who burps. You hustle into bed when I guarantee you a Very Long Brand New story. I start with the plot of Shrek, which you’ve never seen. You and Paul quickly modify it with suggestions worthy of an improv routine. All the characters we’ve ever known play a role. It ends up with everyone friends, of course, and being nice to each other. At the end, Lightning McQueen and Mater bring the dragon truckloads of fruit.

One quick drink of water, and then I “goodnight I love you!” right in the middle of some other nonsense request. “Goodnight, Mom, I love you!” you call through the door.

At 9, I hear you fall out of bed, but by the time I’m opening your door, you’ve climbed back in and are arranging your blanket around you. You’re a kid now; you’ve got yourself covered.