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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 1 month old.

At 7:05 as usual, Paul pops out of bed to turn off the green light, and you follow, having permanently ceded that battleground. Dad helps you work through your list at a good clip although you are disappointed when Paul finishes first and heads downstairs with me to start making breakfast smoothies. We save you the very important yogurt-scooping job, which you execute with good grace, and we are at the table by 7:30.

mmm, smoothie
mmm, smoothie

It’s Friday, so Dad takes you to school and drops you off with Ms. Jolene, who gives you snuggles and feeds you more breakfast. You spin elaborate fantasies all day with your chief collaborators: Harper, June, Addie, Ramona, and Winnie. At lunch, you practice classifying foods into green, yellow, and red categories to signal how much and how often they should be eaten. Ms. Jolene does your hair.


You bustle off the playground hand-in-hand with Ramona, carrying a Mothers Day present for me that you are very proud of. Dad brings you home, where I’ve got dinner on the table: roasted salmon (you eat none), barley (you eat one bite, declare you like it, and have no more), and kale (you finish your portion, ask for seconds, and eat it all—what???).

We have lots of time to play, and the consensus choice is fort-building. We convert our couch once again, and you and Paul play turtle-and-mermaid games and occasionally yell at your repair crew (parents) to fix their shoddy construction work.

Google volunteered this color edit, and why not.
Google volunteered this color edit, and why not.
You and Paul decide we all need beds.
You and Paul decide we all need fort-adjacent beds.

At 6:55, we move the party upstairs and transition to bed routines. You brush your teeth thoroughly, still glowing from yesterday’s praise at the dentist for your hygiene. You have your typical 7pm energy surge, but we keep a lid on it. Mercy Pig settles you down, and you end the night with, per your request, a BRAND NEW story you’ve never heard before from Dad. Goodnight, young lady. You’re getting pretty fun.

a day in your life

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

At 7:05, I hear you call my name and come out of my room to find you and Paul sitting politely at the top of the stairs. “Is it a school day or a home day?” Paul asks, and I tell him, “It’s Wednesday; it’s a school day; and you know what else it is?” You look up at me, smiling, and I say, just to you, “Annie’s birthday.”

You go to the bathroom all by yourself. You’ve graduated yourself from the little potty seat in the last week, telling me you don’t need it because you’re almost four, and maybe it can just be for Paul now. You climb up on the stool to wash your hands and hold them out so I can admire your excellent bubbles. I retrieve your party dress from the closet, and a back-up dress in case you want to keep it clean at school. We complete the look with your birthday crown and the pipe-cleaner necklace you made at school yesterday.



You’re excited to go to class and be celebrated all day. Ms. Jolene greets you with a hug, and as Dad leaves, you are with your class, checking out the new moth that’s come out of its chrysalis overnight.

Later in the morning your classmates throw you a dance party, and sing you happy birthday as you share the frosted cookies we brought for the occasion. You will later identify this as the best part of your day.

I pick you up at 3 as you are reading books at a table with Eloise. “Can I finish this book first and then come?” you ask. Of course. We grab your flip flops from the shelf, and you tear off down the hallway to get Paul. You carry his dog for him until we get to the front door; then you perch it on the handle and ask Paul if he can reach it (he can). “Because you can reach it, it means you’re almost three!

ready for the Folsom Street Fair
ready for the Folsom Street Fair

At home, you open two more presents: kitty-cat ears and tail, and a doll you can draw on, from Aunt Camei and Piper (selected because it has the very most beautiful bag), and a fairy princess (but you call it a butterfly, and we do not correct you) costume from Gobka and Gamma. “Oooooo,” are your precise words, and you immediately strip off your dress.

It’s a pretty day in the 90s, but you do NOT want to play outside because of a morbid fear of bumblebees. (No, I can’t explain it.) So we build another superfort in your room and play an elaborate game of Mermaid and Shark Friend (that’s me), later joined by your brother butterfly.

Dad builds you an addition.
Dad builds you an addition. (Yes, Paul’s boots are on the wrong feet. He insists.)

Despite the dire bee threat, you consent to leave the house for dinner at Home Slice, our friendly neighborhood pizza-joint-slash-Austin-sensation. They give kids wads of raw dough to play with; service is prompt; and pizza is great. What more could you ask? Oh, to DRIVE to the restaurant so the bees don’t get you, and for Dad to pull the car out of the driveway so you don’t have to walk anywhere near our flowering tree that’s buzzing with pollinator activity. Oookay, sure.


You get some friendly attention at the restaurant when we let slip it’s your birthday, and have a surprisingly long video chat with Granddad and Susu, undeterred by the difficult audio. You explain many things to them they probably cannot hear but gamely attempt to respond to because they love you. We order you and Paul a chocolate Italian Ice (gelato? who knows—we do not get a bite) to split, and then the restaurant-birthday gears spin into action, and they bring you another dish of lemon with a candle in it. Apparently waiters singing “Happy Birthday” died with the 20th-century—no regrets—so we do a quiet version, and you blow out the candle and dig into Dessert #2.


Back at home, you hop in a bubble bath enlivened by Gobka and Gamma singing to you and mercifully distracting Paul from a meltdown (1 of 2 for the evening). Our alacrity leaves time for an episode of Pete the Cat, for which you don the ears Piper gave you.

You and Paul are holding the electric toothbrushes that were my gift. You have not forgotten that your cousin Lyla has a toothbrush that spins, and are over the moon to get your own.
You and Paul are holding the electric toothbrushes that were my gift. You have not forgotten that your cousin Lyla has a toothbrush that spins, and are over the moon to get your own.


At 7:10 we begin our bed routine. It’s Mercy Watson x2 for you and Paul, and we navigate the delay tactics of light-turning, potty-going, water-drinking, various snuggling and comforting, etc. I tell a story from the door about Mercy stealing everyone’s popcorn, including Elsa’s, and Dad segues into a candy-forest chapter that Paul requested, which has you in tears. I don’t think you want your special day to end. We keep easing towards goodnight and pull it off by 7:50.

FOUR YEARS! I love you, Biscuit.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 11 months old.

It’s daylight savings day—surprise!—so you sleep all the way until what turned out to be 8:05. You loiter in bed but allow Dad to help you get ready. Downstairs, you greet Granddad and Susu and eat a couple blueberry mini-pancakes, still frozen. We walk to the Croissant House, you alternately running and holding my hand. You nudge past a stranger’s legs to look in the display window, and whet everyone’s appetite with a wet cough.

We head home, eat some pastry, and load up in the car for a dim sum trip (more food!). You ask for a story about lava monsters the whole 20-minute way. I tell you one about several different monsters who were all angry for different reasons, and the ways Moana and Maui help them feel better.


Seated between Dad and our beloved California friends, you nibble a lot of different food like a big girl, then run around the sidewalk with Dad and Paul afterward.

At home, we play an elaborate game where you pretend to be Te Fiti in the couch, and variously assign other roles to the rest of us. When it’s time for Paul’s nap, you motivate him to settle down in bed with a promise of telling him a story from the door. He lays down lickety split, and you narrate the tale of Moana, ask him for his questions, and close the door. Thank you, Annie!!! You celebrate with a screening of the real thing, with Granddad and Susu.


You spend the afternoon on the front porch, pretending the space behind the stroller is a home, office, school, and store. You guide Susu through an elaborate game of being sick and needing to be at the office with her mom (you), staying quiet during phone calls and taking a nap in corner while you go talk with Rachelle. You play with water in the sink and lose your dress.



I convince you to let me detangle your hair and pick apart your locks with the help of some oil while you watch an episode of Daniel Tiger. I score an even greater victory when you consent to a trim, and I cut two scraggly inches off your nearly waist-length hair. We head downstairs for homemade lasagna, and then have a nice bath. Dad says goodbye and heads to California for work, and we do a quick bedtime routine more-or-less on time. It’s more lava monsters for a last story at the doorway—and then one more potty trip—and then a drink of water—and then your fuzzy unicorn socks—and then, okay, it’s 8:00, but that’s still not bad for daylight savings time. Goodnight, my girl.

a day in your life

To Annie: This is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 10 months old.

Paul pops out of bed at 7:05 to announce that your wake-up clock has turned green, and Dad offers you his back to ride to the bathroom to begin your morning routine. You have refused to be enticed by the checklist, but we do insist on all the steps, and Dad helps you through them without major drama.

You tromp downstairs, dressed, and spread cold oatmeal on top of blueberry pancakes, a breakfast innovation you pronounce tasty. It’s Sunday and freezing cold, so we’re in no rush to go anywhere. You take your seat behind a pretend cash register and play an elaborate game of store-keeper with Paul. Dad and I have bit parts.

Around 9, you load up into the stroller and head to the Croissant House (not its real name) and then down to the trail on a walk with Dad. Frozen is your soundtrack. You come home happy, with a piece of croissant you’ve saved for me, and you press your cold cheeks to mine to warm them.

We snuggle up in bed to get warmer, and I step away for a few minutes while you look at pictures on my phone. (When I return, it’s in a settings menu about adaptive battery use. I’m sure everything is fine.) I have lathered up Sous’ undercarriage with antiseptic soap to treat a rash, and it’s time to rinse her. You help me try to lure her into the shower. “Sous!” you shout, imperious, while handing her treats. She ignores us, and I muscle her in while you shut the door behind us.

Dad’s playing video games, and you watch some before persuading us to transition to “Olaf’s Party Adventure” (not its real name), a 22-minute Frozen spin-off. You keep up the cold-things theme by selecting for lunch a frozen banana and three ice cubes. “Kids mostly like cold things, and grown-ups mostly like hot things,” you inform me.


Dad gives you turns at Destiny 2 (#responsibleparenting) while I put Paul down for his nap. I lure you into the living room with silver glitter to make Valentines for your classmates. Then we vacuum, a lot.

Next is tea time. You choose mint, pressing the tea bag to your nose to appreciate the smell. As always, we brew yours in our turquoise Heath Ceramics cream pitcher; you carefully wrap the string around the handle and bob the bag up and down while it steeps. You break raw spaghetti noodles into pieces to pass the time. When the tea is ready, you lift the bag onto a plate, toss 4-5 ice cubes into the pitcher, and stir until they melt and the tea is cooled. I pour you a cup, and you drink it in audible gulps.



We finish out the nap stretch with the first half of Moana, a merciful break from the cold. When Paul wakes up, we load up for the grocery store and make the sort of efficient trip that a busy Sunday afternoon demands. You and Paul, in separate carts, heave our items onto the cashier’s belt. We leave with a purple balloon on each of your wrists.

Dinner is noodles with Susu’s spaghetti sauce. Presented with broccoli three ways (we like it roasted; you do not), you deign to eat a bite of the raw and pronounce it your favorite. We’ll see. We hustle upstairs for a bath with promises of sailing in bath-boats, like Moana. Cleaned-out yogurt cartons are our best boat option. You take us literally and perch on top of yours, paddling through the ocean with a plastic spoon.

Our bedtime book is Florette, and once you’re in your beds, I tell you from the doorway a story about Elsa and Scrooge. As is our current routine, I say goodnight and close the door, and you and Paul shriek in protest: “I forgot my questions!!” I open the door. “Tell me your questions.” You chant, and then Paul echoes you exactly, “If I have to go potty, I’ll let you know, and if I need help wiping, I’ll let you know, and if I get scared, I’ll let you know.” And I say, “Goodnight, Annie, goodnight, Paul, I love you I’ll see you in the morning.”

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 9 months old.

You wake up in your converted crib/big-kid bed at about 10 till 7, but stay there under the power of your own discipline until your clock turns bright green at 7:05. Then you spring out of bed and head for the door with Paul. Dad and I hear the thunder of your feet and intercept you, both bubbling with delight at the magic of your clock.

We have introduced morning checklists in tandem with the big beds, to try and give you more responsibility for getting dressed and head off some of the delays around getting ready. You are not 100% sold on it, but the power of checking boxes has an undeniable allure, and it gets you through potty, tooth-brushing, and getting dressed in about 10 minutes, and before you leave the room. You dawdle a bit, and Paul finishes first, so Dad gets you through the last few steps while I take Paul downstairs.

Breakfast is a slab of pumpkin bread, some strawberries, and a piece of cheese. We eat together at the table. Dad cuts more strawberries on request, and I blow up the pink balloons Eleanor gifted you last weekend. We prepare the toast cups with vitamins of the requested color, and I lure you out to the car by agreeing to tell you the story of Elsa on the way to school.

I keep my promise and give you perhaps my 50th rendition. I carry you into school because you have poked yourself in the eye with your unicorn headband and enjoy the coddling. Paul is cheerful at drop-off; you put your arms around him and kiss his forehead to say goodbye. In your class, you show Ms. Jolene your headband, give me a hug and a push out the door, and I leave you to go wash your hands for breakfast.

It’s a normal day by all reports. You probably play with some of the newer friends I hear you talk about—Ramona, Eloise, maybe others with names from children’s literature. When I arrive to pick you up, you are in the Willows classroom where they have consolidated the kids your age whose dillettente parents have not shown up yet. You have hitched an Ariel costume up around your torso, your own skirt poofed around your chest, and are pretending to nurse a baby doll, immersed in your fantasy world. I leave you there for another few minutes at your request, and pick up Paul. Back together, we manage to coax you out of your costume and up the stairs. You grab a quick cracker snack for the car.

On the way home, you request—surprise—the Frozen soundtrack, and we pull into the driveway as the “Let It Go” radio cut plays. Unbuckled, you and Paul climb out of the car and head inside, where Dad has dinner waiting: manicotti from Central Market, and roasted broccoli. You eat pretty well, and we head upstairs to get ready for bed.

Getting your pajamas on has become a battle of wills some nights as you and Paul find your last pocket of energy for willful play. You have instigated a terrible game just this week where you run back and forth between your beds yelling “tippy top” and stone-cold ignoring us. I try to nip this in the bud by carrying Paul out of the room to get his pajamas on in isolation, while he yells, “I WANT TO PLAY TIPPY TOP!” We persist, and Dad gets you into pajamas at last. He reads to Paul while I answer your questions about why octopus and squid have their mouths on their butts. Finally, you cuddle up at my side while I read a second round of Where Do Diggers Sleep At Night. We start the lullaby, turn on the noise machine, and you nestle into bed happily.

You say something impossibly sweet to me along the lines of “I want to hug you forever because I love you,” so we count 10 hugs, I give Paul a snuggle, and then agree to tell you about one part of the Elsa story once you’re all tucked in and I’m standing at the door. (It’s all about creative incentives these days.) You want me to talk about why the wolves didn’t smell Elsa when she ran up to the top of the mountain, so I propose 5 minutes of various reasons from the doorway. Goodnight, my curious girl.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is what happened the day you turned 3 years and 8 months old.

At 6am, Paul goes on a crying jag that brings Dad in the room for comfort. You seize on the opportunity for a potty trip while he’s handy, then go back to sleep hard. When we push into the bedroom at 7:35, we wake you.

You head downstairs in your pajamas, climb into your chair, and consider the blueberries I have arranged into a smiley face. “Blue berries, Annie!” Paul exclaims, and you take little bites of them to show me how the insides are NOT blue, but ARE the same, berry to berry. You proceed to your banana yogurt while we make the toast.

I coax you into your dress for the day, but you DO NOT CONSENT to our pant selection. I implore your mercy. You request a different pair, and we proceed. I buckle you in the car and wave goodbye as Dad takes you to school. Until Riverside, you loudly mourn the fact you had not told me to “have a nice day.”

At school, you carry Paul’s diaper supply to his teachers, and bid him farewell. Dad drops you in the Owls with your 4th water bottle of the year. We suspect there is a ditch on the playground where you have been dumping them.

I hope you have a good day. You have become very fond of your teachers, especially Ms. Nomi, and your classmate Winnie seems to have finally replaced Isabella in your triumvirate of friends. I pick you up at 4:30 or so; you’re climbing on the playground structure and find me as I’m hugging Paul off a swing.

We obtain cracker snacks and are about to get into the car when you declare you have to go potty. We head back inside and make a shockingly efficient trip back to your classroom, where you kindly suggest the toy Paul can play with and make sure it’s back on the shelf before we go.

In the car, you remember the line of nursing students we once saw streaming down a long sidewalk—wow, was it only two months ago??—and ask where they’ve gone. You and Paul negotiate some disagreements about music volume, and I remember to appreciate how much less you two just shout over each other’s words now than you used to, when Paul had just found his voice.

You clamour out of the car and into the house. Dinner is not quite ready, so we sit on the couch and watch family pictures cycle through the new Google product Dad has introduced into the living room. Access to a special fork (a single, purchased foolishly when there was only one of you) causes strife, even removed from the choice set, and you and Paul both want the red plastic fork that remains. Dad pushes you to work it out, and you graciously concede and take the yellow fork instead. Peace reigns. I teach you how to pick up your pasta (don’t just stab—stick-slide-scoop). We all learn and grow.

After dinner and with clean hands, you sit on my lap at the piano where I bang out Rudolf in exactly the same halting pace my mom did. You call it “Rudolf the Red Reindeer” and have loved it since you heard it at the Capitol tree lighting a week or so ago. It’s your carol of the year, I think. (Last year’s was “Jingle bells, jingle bells, ALL the way…”)

You discover new presents under the Christmas tree. OMG. They have arrived in the mail from Debbie and Bianca, and you correctly read your name on yours. You caress it, carry it around, play with its string, and generally risk loving the package to death two weeks before you get to open it. I extricate you from the loops you’ve used to fashion it into a backpack before you bring it straight into the tub.

We have a relatively joyful bubble bath, and you hurry into your pajamas to warm up and watch an episode of Daniel Tiger (today’s lesson: when you’re upset, you can find a way to feel better). For a bedtime book you select The Gruffalo but express regret on the way to bed for not picking the Jeanie book, which you just discovered and we read several times over the weekend.

Your last questions are in a morbid vein as you continue to grapple with death. I do my best to be honest without completely freaking you out. I think there’s a lot more of this in our future.

a day in your life

To Annie: on the day you turned 3 years and 7 months old, I forgot to notice. Aunt Peanut just texted me today to check on our well-being. Here are some high points, to the best of my recollection, three days later.

It was Saturday, and you slept in! You and Paul ate toast and tea with me for breakfast while Dad mowed the lawn. You dressed yourself in three shades of pink. I often wonder what your future self will make of your 3-year-old sartorial choices.


We bundled up in the 45-degree weather for our usual walk—trail, turtles, and tacos—and made a Central Market trip together for the first time in a few weeks. Balloons were obtained.


You asked me to stay with you during your “nap,” which I agreed to do on the condition of no talking. You watched over my shoulder as I read the 1000-page The English and Their History. I got sleepy and closed my eyes. You did not, and poked them—my eyes—gently. After an hour, you went downstairs to watch Dad play video games.

You joined me in the kitchen to make another pot of sweet orange tea, and donned goggles while I sliced a load of onions for soup. Dad took you to the playground, and I met you there. You can swing yourself now. Did you hear that? YOU CAN SWING YOURSELF NOW. This may be the most significant accomplishment of your life to date.

Back home, we seriously spooked you with 30 minutes of Monsters Inc., broke for dinner, and regrouped with Finding Nemo. You went to bed, with no bath, and just a little bit of lollipop in your hair.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 and a half.

I walk into your room at 7:30 and find you standing in your crib, smiling. You throw your leg over the side, threatening to learn that you actually can easily climb out of that thing. I intercept you before you obtain dangerous knowledge, and leave you curled on the floor, pretending to be Baby Annie. Dad curls up next to you, and you have a discussion that ends in a piggyback ride down the stairs.


You are a BIG fan of the overnight oatmeal I’ve made, a new breakfast experiment. When we finish, you request more for tomorrow, and watch me make it in the kitchen. I give you a few inches of foil to play with, and you wrap it around your baby bottle and tell me it’s a taco. We start to head outside, and you declare loudly that you do NOT want to put on your shoes. Then: “Actually, I DO want to put on my shoes.” It’s hard to keep up with you.

We frisk around a bit in one of our first cool mornings, then head to the car. On the way to school, you’re full of your usual questions about why everything in the world is the way it is. You spot the golden clouds and tell me you see a sunset.

You escort Paul and I to the Pandas class, bottle-taco in hand, and then we head down to the Owls. You stash your treasure in your cubby for Show and Share on Friday, and cling to me, as you have all week, when I say goodbye. We have a long and thorough hug. I leave you with Ms. Jolene, trying to psych you up for the next activity.


A few minutes before five, Paul and I stroll onto the playground and find you barefoot on a tire swing, with Ms. Noemi pushing. We fail to find your sandals, and you tell Ms. Stephanie all about it as Paul obtains some crackers on the way out. Halfway into the car, Ms. Noemi comes running, sandals in hand and full of apologies.

“Mom, can you please roll my windows down?” YEAH I can, cuz it’s gorgeous. You wave to a horde of nursing students in scrubs as they walk down the sidewalk. We discuss the air quality on the highway on our way home, and when it’s okay again to roll down the windows.

At home, you climb out of the backseat and ogle our across-the-street neighbor as he does yardwork. Dad smears bug repellent on you, and we load up into the wagon for a picnic dinner.

"Annie!" I say, and you turn my way.
“Annie!” I say, and you turn my way, your face in rare repose.

We find a nice spot on a hill overlooking the playground and unpack our meal. You don’t eat much, but ask questions about what’s happening on the tennis court until your understanding of the game matches my own. You slide and climb and rampage around the playground, visit the blanket for some grapes, and ask if I’ll push you on the swing. I do.


You desperately have to pee, and we make a brave excursion to the extremely off-putting bathrooms on site. You can’t quite muster the courage to enter, and clench up ever tighter. I resist the temptation to let you squat in the grass. We play some more and make it home dry. You decline help in the bathroom and do it all yourself.

We play a bit downstairs. I follow your directions and Paul’s through a game of pretend, cycling quickly between firefighter rescuing you, a doctor, and your mom while you’re a baby. I tuck you into your pretend bed on the couch and bring you your “bottle.”

7:00 rolls around, and it’s time to wash the Deet off you. You hop happily into the shower (“I want it cold.”) but throw a fit when Dad tries to wash your body. Eventually we get you clean.

You pretend to be a baby all through our bedtime ritual, which we all enjoy. Maneuvering your body through all the tasks is at least twice as easy as persuading you to do it yourself, and we’re brushing your teeth thoroughly for perhaps the first time in your life. Two thumbs up to the Baby-Annie game from all players.

We read some of Fox in Socks for our bedtime book, which really highlights the absurdity of all your why questions. (“Why is he sewing his nose?”) I carry you to the light switch, and you execute your duties. In bed, it’s socks, questions, a pet, and hand-hold, more questions, last-minute demands for your pet and hand-hold because “I didn’t feel them!!”, more questions, an I-love-you, and goodnight. Phew. Three-and-a-half.


a day in your life

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

You wake up slowly, and I find you still lounging peacefully when I open your bedroom door a few minutes past 7:30. You let out a few “wah wahs” to indicate that Baby Annie is in residence—a favorite pretend character these days. Paul pipes up, “Baby Annie!” and we navigate the potential pitfalls of the morning through an elaborate game of pretend-baby. Ten minutes later, you’re in the car, happily mining a breakfast cup filled with toast, grapes, a chewable vitamin, and a small slice of the banana bread we baked together yesterday.

By the time we’re getting off the highway, you’re 3 again and back to experimenting with language and social norms. You spar with Paul over who tooted (“I tooted! No, I tooted!” Actual fact: no one tooted), then segue into jokes:

“The airplane tooted on the tree.” (Pause for laughter.)

“The airplane tooted on the car.” (Pause for laughter.)

“I put the potty in the toilet with a cockroach.” (Pause for laughter.)

Paul is a generous audience. You ask me if your jokes are funny, and I tell you that the test is whether people laugh at them, so therefore they must be.

You are making an airplane shape with your hand and zooming it around---something you learned at the CDC.
You are making an airplane shape with your hand and zooming it around.

At school, you run all the way down the hallway to the Pandas class, and wait patiently through Paul’s drop-off process. Then it’s off to the Owls, where your classmates are already in full swing. We unload your spare clothes and clean sheets, and you head off to wash your hands for a second-breakfast of canned pears and Cheerios.

When I pick you up at 5:15, you run for a hug and sing “mooo-oom.” We grab your sandals and put them on at the stairs—you are barefoot at school most of the time now. I don’t mind philosophically, but it means your feet are always filthy.

You hug Paul at pick up and run full-tilt back down the hall. Outside the building, you walk on the limestone wall like a balance beam before heading to the car. I feel compelled to reprimand you for dallying, as you crawl in through the drivers’ side and take the scenic route to your seat.

In the car, we discuss interrupting, and how we need to practice not doing it as a family. It’s a tricky one, though. I may have just taught you to interrupt politely: “Excuse me, Mom…(pay attention to ME now).” Better than nothing I guess.

You ask a series of why questions about car windows, and exhaust, and air quality. At home, you ring the front doorbell and summon Dad, who talks to us from California. You suggest “turtle-ini” for diner, and you and Paul romp happily while I make it. We sit at the table for a good spell, then you go wash your hands and face under your own power.

playing while I make dinner
playing while I make dinner

We play upstairs. You are very into Paul’s new baby doll and set up an elaborate scene where you two are its parents, and I’m the doctor. We follow up with a classic game of  Hall-Klingner hide-and-seek, which bears only passing resemblance to real hide-and-seek. We talk to Dad on the phone, then play some more. You and Paul make me pretend coffee in your kitchen.

I lure you into fresh clothes with the promise of “being the monster,” and you hop to it. We do a raucous few minutes of mom-monster eating two pink princesses, who line up to be devoured. Staying on theme, we read every word of Beast. You trot off to do the lights by yourself, and I scoop Paul into his crib, then you. Socks, hand-holding, tummy pet, and a brief series of stalling questions—“what happens if we have the tummy troubles on our dog?”—finish off the night. Sleep well, kiddo.