a day in your life

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

A few minutes before seven, the sky begins to lighten. Crickets are singing their hearts out, and a jet roars across the sky. We are cozied up in our family tent, at McKinney Falls State Park, site 041. The thrill of this fact ensures you will not drift back to sleep once you’re awake, and you and Paul begin a joyful wrestling match. Time to get up. You put some clothes on and brush your teeth while Dad makes coffee, and then we all tumble out of the tent to breakfast around the picnic table.

We are here with our camping buddies, Silas (4), Sage (7), Amy and Eric (40ish). You and Sage, fast friends, decide to take a walk, so I tail you around the loop of campsites as you run flat out, pretending to be queens.

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Next up is an excursion to the lower falls. Unlike the rest of us, you have the foresight to wear a swimsuit. Aside from a brief tussle over shoe-wearing, we have a ball. You wade with Sage and I across an expanse of slippery limestone, and we peer down at the swimmers at the falls. Back with the rest of our family, you play something make-believe with the rest of the kids until we decide it’s time for lunch.

You and Sous have many tender moments this day.
You and Sous have many tender moments this day.

We head back to the campsite and unfold the chairs into cots for some quiet time. You chill and listen to stories for an hour or so, then bounce back into action. Our camp offers plenty of playscapes for imagined adventures, so we hang out for a couple of hours before gearing up for another swim at 4. Upper falls, this time. It’s an unseasonably hot day, 95 degrees in October, so the cool water feels good. You are ecstatic to be swimming, and Dad and I swing you around in the water and pull you forward to practice your kicking. When the adults retreat to the shore, you kids find a log to serve as your boat and play an elaborate game of mermaids.

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You are determined to take the hardest route back, climbing capably up some steep rocks and leaping across crevices. We buckle in for our 2-minute drive back to the site, and you execute a wardrobe change into your evening wear, handily winning Best Dressed.

Dad builds the fire, and we grill hotdogs. After that, naturally, it’s s’more time. You wave a marshmallow near the fire until the edge turns the barest gold, and then happily squash it between chocolatey graham crackers. After one more marshmallow, you inform me your tummy hurts. I do not doubt it.

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We hustle to the tent for a thorough tooth-brush, and you and Paul, quite exhausted, climb into your sleeping bags in your clothes. I read one chapter of our latest book (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator) and go to rejoin the adults. You blink out like a light.

a day in your life

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

You sleep in; it’s 7:30 before we see you, and you pretend to be asleep through the whole dressing routine. It’s a shocking 57 degrees outside on this early September morning, so we opt for pants under your dress. You also insist on mittens. You are excited for banana bread for breakfast, and I carry your “sleeping” body downstairs.

You’re still chewing your sticky pieces as Dad and Paul are leaving for their bike ride, and I hustle you to the kitchen to sign into your third day of distance-Kindergarten. It is not going well. Dad and I—no technology slouches—spent 30 minutes before you woke up wrestling with multiple log-ins. Your classmates do not know how to mute themselves. Your teacher is very sweet and working very hard, and running into broken links and fumbled audio at all times. You are still in your shy phase, and prefer to sink down out of sight of the camera while the other children wave and smile. Today everyone is introducing stuffed animals to the class. You decline. “Mom, I don’t want to do this.” You mean all of it.

That's you, top left.
That’s you, top left.

We soldier on until the 8:20 dance break, and I drive you and Paul to school. Well, first you engage in a lengthy negotiation about who will carry the vitamins to the car. Talks break down. You end up working together to unscrew the lid, and each carry your own vitamin. Oh my god, children. I’m counting the minutes and calculating whether I’ll still have time for a jog in the chilly air before my work day begins.

As we back out of the driveway, you declare you are not going to school, you are going to stay at home forever. We all agree to accept this as a joke. On the way we discuss how “goo goo gah gah” is not really something baby’s say; it’s like “woof”—a word for a sound that’s sort of like what a dog says. I miss the opportunity to teach you the word ‘onomatopoeia.’ Soon. At school, you giggle and wave through the car window at Ms. Patricia, then go in cooperatively. Thank heaven.

At Colibri I think you’ve been working with the place value blocks because, well, your teachers told us so, and later this night you’ll ask me if ten tens make a million. You seem disappointed in yourself for getting it wrong. It’s not raining for the first time in a few days, so you get your usual outdoor playtime, and instead of taking a nap, you spend two hours on your school tablet. Hopefully you spend at least some of that time in class!

your math class, which you might be participating in every day at 12:30
Your math class, which you might be participating in every day at 12:30. Or might not.

Dad picks you up at 5, and you and Paul chase each other around the house for 30 minutes, mostly cheerfully. I get home with takeout at 5:30, in time to hear you announce from upstairs, “This is the funnest game in the world!!” Spirits are high. You both eat five cherry tomatoes off your dinner plates, drink a glass of milk, headbutt each other, and start running races around the kitchen. Oh, and yelling. Dad and I tell you if you’ll put on your pajamas and brush your teeth, you can watch two episodes of something from PBS Kids. You eagerly accept this deal.

Five minutes later, you’ve gotten ready for bed and tucked yourselves into ours. You sample an episode of Let’s Go Luna and then revisit an old-favorite Nature Cat. We should really donate a lot more money to PBS.

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We go to the bedroom. Dad reads you a picture book that’s basically a big math problem about setting tables for a dinner party, and then you get in bed for our final story. We finished The BFG last night and are starting Charlotte’s Web. These books are perfect for you. We read the first two chapters, and Paul fusses about something. You tell me you’re going to come make him feel better. “I really need you both to be in your beds,” I say. “Mom, do you want him to stop crying? Then I need to come over.” I find this hard to argue with, and acquiesce. You kiss him and roll your back over his whole body. As promised, he is cheered. Okay, now to bed. You say the thing about ten tens making a million. Paul complains about everyone interrupting him. One of you asks me to pronounce the whole alphabet. “Aah-buc-duh-efgheej-klemnop-qrstuv-wxxxeezzzz,” I say, and I close the door.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 4 months old.

You wake up right on schedule, in good spirits on this Monday morning. You have “Love” the dog, a year-old party favor you’ve recently rediscovered, and you are making her kiss everything she sees, and moving her stuffed legs to show us how she walks. Today will be our third day at Colibri, the new Spanish-immersion Montessori school started by your erstwhile nanny and some colleagues. It has been open a week, and you and Paul represent 1/3 of the current student body. You must appreciate the structure and challenge to some extent because your level of complaining about the change in routine has been very low.

While I pack lunch and three snacks each for you and Paul, Dad helps you get dressed in what is among your most fabulous sartorial compositions. You don’t even mind wearing shoes. Breakfast goes quickly, and you kiss and hug Paul to cheer him through a small fuss. I buckle you into the carseat and administer your vitamin, and we’re off on the 5-minute drive through quiet streets.

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I pull into the circle drive, and we put on our masks. The teachers, also masked, greet us at the door, take your temperature, and give you sanitizer for your hands. You and Paul submit earnestly to the routine, and Ms. Patricia takes you around to the yard to play. Before you enter the school, they’ll sanitize your shoes.

The school routine is similar to what you had at the UT CDC, and I suspect you appreciate it. After morning playtime with Eleanor, Riley, and a couple of new friends whose names you can’t remember, you have a snack, some self-guided learning, singing, a video about germs that scares Paul, lunch, nap, and then more of the same. You wear a mask all day. Our pick-up window is 5:30-45—families are staggered to avoid crowding—and the teachers escort you outside. No other non-staff adults are allowed in the facility. Common pandemic-era practices.

Today you made this crown. The rainbow was last week's. High-quality craft station.
Clearly a high-quality craft station at Colibri.

Dad brings you home. You bustle in, curious about what’s for dinner, and eat strawberries and milk while Dad and I feast on fancy Mexican food from a favorite restaurant.

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It gets briefly silly after dinner. About one second after I take this photo, Paul accidently trips you. The mood is broken; you head up for a bath. After a good soak, it’s off to snuggle into our bed for an episode of Molly of Denali. Our TV consumption has definitely escalated. Ours and the rest of the world’s.

I read you Bubble Trouble, a fun tongue-twister of a book, and Dad follows up with Tidy, about a badger who paves over a forest in a neurotic fit of cleanliness. Once you’re both in bed, I give you two chapters of your latest Jack and Annie book, a series about a time-travelling brother and sister. In this one, they help prepare the first Thanksgiving meal.

You need to find Love the Dog again for more tricks and kisses and bedtime companionship, and retreat into your bed-cave, which has been draped with one of our king-sized sheets for a few weeks now. It makes you feel safe. One more drink of water, and a few more questions, and goodnight.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 3 months old.

You and Paul are awake and playing in your beds at 6:15. You crawl into our room at 7:05. “Is it a baby parade?” I ask. “Yes!!” you tell me. You climb into our bed and wallow around for a minute. Then it’s off to your bedroom for your latest train video production. You aspire to be a YouTube star after watching a few too many videos of people playing with toy trains. The internet is a weird place.

Alas, something sets you off into a downward mood spiral, and you enter a cycle of “my back hurts, my tummy hurts, my legs hurt, ow, ow, OW!” and fight every step of the morning.

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I lose patience and decamp, and Dad gets you downstairs. The sight of your breakfast sends you into a floor tantrum, so we run out of time to eat it, and then it’s TOO COLD anyway, and no you do NOT want to take it in a cup in the car, but you also MUST have it in the car, and hoo boy, it is a half-hour of no fun for anyone.

At the Crowders, Ms. Patricia can tell you’re upset and makes a sweet fuss over you. “Oh, panqueques, que linda, me gusta mucho, que bonita…” and you eventually stabilize enough for me to make an exit.

Your day turns out just fine. You and the crew are playing a lot of Octonauts these days, your favorite TV show. You are typically Dashi, the girliest of the crew. Your clothes are soaked during water play, so you end up in Eleanor’s—always more interesting to you than your own spares, and she’s very willing to share. When Dad arrives to pick you up, you and Paul are manta rays eggs, curled up on the couch and ready to hatch.

Here you are showing off Eleanor's outfit. "I'm going to wear shirts and pants now all the time, if the shirts are beautiful like this." Mmhmm. You've recently discovered you can stick your upper lip to your teeth and prefer to smile like this now, which is going to make posed pictures weird for a spell.
Here you are showing off Eleanor’s outfit. “I’m going to wear shirts and pants now all the time, if the shirts are beautiful like this.” You’ve recently discovered you can stick your upper lip to your teeth and prefer to smile like this now, which is going to make posed pictures weird for a spell.

You get home quickly, and are pleased to discover fresh mango on your dinner plate. It’s all you eat, plus a, well, mango popsicle for dessert. Whatever, fine. You hustle upstairs for a bath with Paul, and then into our bed for a NEW favorite show, Nature Cat. Thanks, PBS.

I brush your hair and trim your fingernails while you watch, and then it’s time for books and stories. I read you Country Mouse / City Mouse from a 1980 Richard Scary anthology that used to be mine, and then you join Dad’s lap for the end of Hilda and the Midnight Giant, a more modern graphic novel. You retire to your bed, behind the sarong you have appropriated as a bedcurtain, and he tells the last story, about a girl who was afraid of a dog, from Harper’s Magazine circa 1906. Media consumption complete! Goodnight!

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 2 months old.

You sleep in a bit after our wild vacation weekend, and follow Paul quietly into our room at 7:15, accepting the wordless invitation to come snuggle in our bed for a bit. You’re quickly off and running, though, plowing through your now two-item morning list. Clothes and teeth—everything else seems optional for a 5-year-old who spends her days at a friend’s house. We breakfast on mini-pancakes and our quarter-bushel of Hill Country peaches.

You linger over breakfast and ask to bring lovies to “Spanish Camp,” stretching out the minutes before departure. Soon enough, though, you’re loaded up and headed for the Crowders’ with Dad. There, you blend right into the kid crowd, reunited with Eleanor after 22 hours of deprivation.

At “camp,” you play play play, and sing your favorite songs (we hear a lot of “La Arana eensy weensy” these days), and hunt for snail shells in the yard, some of which still have resident snails. Los caracoles, you tell me. At nap time—ha!—you also play. Apparently, you and Riley are the good kids, and Paul and Eleanor the troublemakers. Checks out.

I find you at 5, playing in the outdoor sink Doug built, which you and Eleanor have declared is a river. You tell me quite firmly that you are never leaving. Oh boy, one of those nights. Kalia helps us out by herding all of the kids outside, and I lure you into the car with a short from Thomas the Tank Engine. I have no shame anymore.

Once you’re in the car with the show on my phone, you enter a TV trance state, and I buckle you in and make the traffic-free, 7-minute drive home. Some things about our lives are just purely better now.

watching the timer until dinner is done
watching the timer until dinner is done
snuggled up for TV
snuggled up for TV

At home, you hop right out of the car and head in to inquire about dessert. Dad puts you off, and we manage to eat a peaceful dinner together before your helping of the summer berry pudding we made together yesterday as a new-recipe experiment. That you eat on the deck, and lick the plate.

We scrub face and hands and get in our pajamas in time for an episode of Octonauts (“Kwazi! Activate: Creature Report!”). Today we learn about long-armed squid and sperm whales. It’s time for bed. You head upstairs willingly, but struggle with brushing your teeth. “Mom! My tummy hurts when I hear the toothbrush, and when I smell the toothpaste, and when it’s near my mouth.” I brush your teeth for you. You want to play with the train set that’s sprawled across the room instead of reading books, and enter a battle of wills with your father. You lose but leave marks. Finally, you consent to being read to. It’s bedtime. I tell an inane story with frequent interruptions. But after I say goodnight, that’s the end. Not bad.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 1 month old.

It’s Mother’s Day. Dad reminds you of this when you walk into our bedroom. (“And what do we do on Mother’s Day?” “We’re nice to Mom.”) What you need NO reminder of is this: we’re going to the ranch! After 8 weeks of lockdown, we’ve decided that 6 hours of driving is a reasonable price to pay for 6 hours of running around, with 6 feet of distance between household members. Pandemic math.

Getting ready is not all sunshine and roses, but we manage to accomplish the essentials and get on the road by 7:30. You and Paul munch happily through your breakfasts while we cruise north on the emptiest 1-35 we’ve ever seen. You enter an imaginary world, and Dad and I smile at each other to hear the louder snippets of your story. “…the GREATEST QUEEN in the WORLD!” When your storyline concludes, you request a Circle Round podcast episode, and estimate it will take us 7 stories to reach the ranch. I am impressed—at 20 minutes each, I think you are exactly right. (You later revise your estimate to 19, but maybe just because you love them.)

We arrive 3 hours later and tumble out of the car, so excited yet flustered that we forget about Sous. I find her in the backseat a few minutes later. When we would have hugged your grandparents, we instead offer awkward greetings from a distance, pitching our voices to carry. It gets better after that.

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You inspect the oak tree that’s toppled over, assessing it for climbability and fort-building capacities. We decide it definitely must stay. Reminded of the blackberry bush, you decide it’s time to pick some, and you and Paul race over, one piloting Little Kermit, child-sized jeep, and one on foot. Then some quality sand-pit time. Checking all the boxes.

You hop in the hot tub for a major swim, diving for sticks under water while the adults sit around you, providing all the attention you wish. Gamma and Gobka arrive—more beloved grandparents from whom to keep our distance.

You visit the bathroom and begin waging your campaign to hang out inside. (“I just need to cool off inside.” “I’m so tired: I need to nap on the bunk bed.”) We feed you fried chicken and macaroni and cheese for lunch, on a sheet under the tree. It couldn’t be more beautiful.

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You do more kid-cart driving, and swing in the hammock. We visit the blackberries again, and eat cobbler. Granddad and Susu feed the cows. The afternoon melts away. We eat another dessert, chocolate cake for your belated birthday. It’s somehow time to go.

We get loaded up without tears, and wave goodbye to our family. Time to drive again. You get one more Circle Round story before Dad declares a moratorium. Paul has fallen asleep, and you certainly would if we would just stop reminding you not to suck your thumb. You try to hide it from us behind a doll, and your hair. I talk to you to distract you, and give you things to put in your mouth instead. Sunglasses. A chard stem. Sheets of dried seaweed. When we reach Waco, we declare moral victory and let you play on your tablet for the rest of the trip home.

It’s 7 when we arrive, and you are tired. It’s a cup of yogurt for dinner, and off to get clean. You take a shower in our bathroom (by yourself, “like a grown-up”), and clean yourself adequately. I help you into pajamas, paint your thumbnails with our revolting quit-sucking polish, and read a chapter of the Elsa and Anna book June mailed you for your birthday. Dad tells a bedtime story, and I field a few post-bedtime questions and requests from Paul (who slept for 2 hours in the car). You are tired, though, and laying down everytime I open the door. By 8:15, it’s all quiet. Goodnight, sweetie. You’ve come a long way.

a day in your life

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

You tiptoe into our room at 7:04, asking, “can we get up a little early since it’s my birthday?” Sure, sweetie. Happy Day. You and Paul climb up into bed, and you stretch your long body across the mattress. I’ve spread out special birthday clothes: a new dress for you that reminded me of your very (and my very-least) favorite “butterfly dress,” worn ages 2-4. Obtaining this new one was an important moral exercise for me in allowing you your own taste and opinions. You love it.

Paul is also dressed to impress.
Paul is also dressed to impress.

Two hours of playtime follow. You and Paul reprise your Swan Lake ballet dancing in the dark, play a bit with your new bucket of dinosaurs, and watch Chris in the back saw wood for the deck. Eventually you realize you have to pee, and omg is it an emergency. I take off your birthday dress as requested, but you have an accident at the finish line. Just a huge volume of pee. Oh my goodness.

You rinse off in the shower, and cleaning up the floor launches Dad into a house-wide project with our new mop. We get dressed again and head downstairs for a late breakfast of oatmeal and berries, and to open some presents.

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“I have a riddle for you.” Dad sets the stage for something mysterious and exciting, that you must ride your bikes to find. You dictate a paragraph for me to post on your helmet, so everyone knows it’s your birthday. I abbreviate. The parks are closed, so we set out for the church parking lot.

Coming around the corner, we find Dad with your new bikes and helmets. !!! Initial joy gives way to a fair amount of anxiety as you try to figure out the pedals and cope with the sensation of a much-larger vehicle. Paul heads home with Dad when he poops out. You keep at it with tenacity, albeit a constant whimper, and we circle around the lot until you take off on your own, for a few seconds, two or three times. We take a long break, sitting in the parking lot, and we walk your bike home together.

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You and Paul enjoy some tablet time (Khan Academy Kids = the pandemic’s MVP) while I bake you a chocolate cake. I toss in a half-cup of chocolate chips and forget the baking soda, and the result is beautiful and dark and dense. (This recipe has become my chocolate cake go-to for some reason, with butter for the shortening.)

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It’s lunch time. PBJs and cherry yogurt. You and Paul are looking for mayhem, so Dad corrals you with video games. You help him kick off Final Fantasy 7 and then play some Donut County, a favorite of yours. This time you work hard to get the hang of controlling it yourself. I work on a fun project of my own, making us cloth masks to CDC specifications.

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You two pop out and are excited to come watch me finish up. We’re having an awesome, fun sewing-machine tutorial, until Paul touches the hot iron oh sweet Jesus. He’s in pain and I’m angry at myself and we’re all screaming and crying and tearing around for what feels like an hour. I can’t get him to keep his hand under running water or against something cold. You are doing your best to help both of us—but you also really want to read your new Frozen chapter book.

A moment of happy distraction thanks to Annie and her present from June.
A moment of happy distraction thanks to Annie and her present from June.

Dad comes out of a half-hour work meeting to find a trail of wreckage around the house. We’ve opened your gift from June: a giant padded envelope full of books and drawings she’s made, and an assortment of kid nonsense. (“MOM! It’s YELLOW STRING!!!”) You love every bit of it. We’ve pursued various components of the package to try and help Paul feel better, many of which worked for 30 seconds.

At last, we settle into some Dinosaur Train on the couch, with a bowl of ice water for finger-dipping. Dad and I pick things up. Paul’s ibuprofen has kicked in. I finish sewing your child-sized face masks. You learn about the 50th type of dinosaur I have never heard of.

I make your favorite dinner: Annie’s-brand macaroni and cheese, with shells. You eat a giant plateful. We bring out the cake and sing, and you’re blowing out the candles before it’s resting on the table.

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Dad invites Paul on a special bike ride, and you and I lag behind so I can show you your recorded birthday greetings from all our favorite friends and family. We lay on our stomachs on the floor in your room and watch them one-by-one on my laptop. You keep turning to me with a delighted smile and telling me fun facts about the classmates who are talking. It’s lovely. We are going through a second time when we hear the front door and the boys are back.

Eleanor Crowder doing her thing:

You want to go for another bike ride, too, right up until you remember the terror of your new bike, so we don’t make it farther than the end of our block. Good news for Mom and Dad’s back muscles—we are happy to head for home and bed.

You pick Make Way for Ducklings for your bedtime book, and I treat you to the unabridged version. Paul’s pick is Dragons Love Tacos—another solid choice. You opt for another book instead of a Mom-original bedtime story, so I read you a vintage 1980s Berenstain Bears number, and then, okay fine, Dragons Love Tacos II for Paul. Phew. 7:20, goodnight. Except not really, and we see you and Paul at least half a dozen more times and herd you back towards your beds.

Five years old. We made it.

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.