a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 8 years and 5 months old.

Riley slept over last night. At 5:58, someone sneezes, and you’re all up. You seek refuge from the boys in the living room with me, and accept my invitation to read with me in the big chair. You’ve brought the 8th book in the Wings of Fire series. I think it’s the first chapter book you have read voluntarily and with pleasure. Even the escapades of Peril the SkyWing can’t conquer the wiggles, though, and you slide yourself off the chair in several creative ways before requesting pancakes for breakfast.

You dip in and out of the boys’ play, joining their soccer match but resigning over disagreements with the ref (Paul). He widened the goal posts due to your impenetrable goalkeeping. Tears followed on all sides.

Finding an old kit from the hardware store, you propose a project to me: building a birdhouse. Sounds fun! We make it on the porch—you do almost all the work.


I leave for the grocery store while you embark on a next project involving the big truck and a crew of lovies. When I return, you’ve mounted your birdhouse on the balcony. We hang out there for a while, drinking cans of sparkling water and waiting for a bird to move in.


Doug arrives for Riley, but we chat for too long, and they find a really effective hiding place. We adults are about to venture outside, our voices getting increasingly loud and stern. You diffuse the situation by locating the boys using your kid brain. They’ve filed themselves on the shelves of the guest room closet and are ENORMOUSLY proud of fooling us. Doug and Riley depart.

You settle in happily with your Harry Potter audio book (back to #2 I believe), in a little fort made of the piano bench + your lovey truck. It’s a pretty chill afternoon. You’re happy to putter around, reading, listening, engaging in small projects. You plan a class schedule for us on the big chalkboard, requesting sign-ups for various subjects and informing us of their timing.


I brush your hair and inspect it for lice—a letter has gone home from your class, so we are deeply paranoid. Happily, you’re free and clear. We eat nachos for dinner. I’ve attempted to melt the cheese into an approximation of the ballpark-style velveeta you love at school. It’s a goopy mess, but you appreciate my effort. You take a shower and request I take a picture to document your outstanding shampooing.

lice free!
lice free!
and clean
and clean!

All in all, a great day with you, baby.

a day in your life

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

It is Thursday, your fourth day this week of no school, no camp, just you at home, making your own day. We dabbled in this earlier in the summer, and you did great, so here we are making a week of it. You’re still doing great. Last time I signed you up for some online classes, and I’d planned to get you back into the one you most enjoyed…but I didn’t. “When is my one and only camp?” you ask me this morning. Oops. Is it okay that I forgot to sign you up? “Oh yeah.”

Unusually, Paul is home too today, skipping half-day soccer camp because his friend Jaden won’t be there. You take him under your wing and play at home all morning while Dad and I work. I think you’re at Hogwarts for a time? There are also cars. Anyway, all going well.

Babysitter Jade comes at noon, to be a playmate/gentle supervisor. I come down in the early afternoon and find you all sitting around the breakfast nook, reading quietly to yourselves. It’s the Wings of Fire graphic novels for you, still going strong after six weeks. I think you like to read things until you have them memorized. Your reading skills have leveled up quite a bit.

The only outdoor activity that makes any sense in the 105-degree heat is swimming. The three of you decide to ride your bikes to Big Stacy pool. It’s a quick trip—you have to get to the orthodontist. (All of this sounds very big-kid to me as I type it.) Dad takes you and will later declare you “a trooper.” You have impressions made for a more serious thumb-sucking deterrent. (Okay, still some little kid in there.) It’s uncomfortable, but you cooperate with everything and leave with new colored bands on your ever-straighter teeth.

Jade stays with you through the evening, playing, chatting, and reading, while we go out for dinner. That’s it, kiddo! Another day down.

a day in your life

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

We wake up in a vacation house in Stinson Beach, California. It’s our first morning here. You and Paul join me on the balcony off our bedroom, snuggling in dew-wet adirondack chairs to watch the sky lighten over the ocean. Before long you’ve dragged your duvets out. Somewhere in the neighborhood, a rooster is crowing.


We head down for breakfast bowls of cereal. Shame on me, I let you have a little chocolate because we forgot dessert last night, and pack another square into your lunches. I’m always a pushover on the first day of a new camp. Dad gets back from a run and helps pack your bags. He drives you 20 minutes down Hwy 1 for Bob’s Adventure Camp.

Bob’s Adventure Camp is as wonderful as it is unlicensed. Bob, 75, storied citizen of Mill Valley, has been running this camp for 2 weeks every summer since time immemorial. Advertising is by word of mouth, the treasured opportunity passed from family to family. We heard about it from my friend Heather, who heard about it from a neighbor. Her kids, including 8-year-old Amalia, went last year. Amalia is here again. We signed you up by mailing Bob a 1-page form and a check. (You’ll appreciate how unusual this is when you’re enrolling your own kids in camp.)

Dad pulls in at the Muir Beach Community Services District’s BBQ area, tucked into a nook between mountains and signed with a blue stripe and a kite tacked on the nearest telephone poll. As they approach, Bob greets each camper by name, deducing who they are and putting them at ease. He gives you and Paul something special for coming all the way from Texas. “What is it?” I ask later. “Kind words.” Dad declares Bob a cool person and leaves you in the care of a handful of teenage counselors.

You have the best day ever. I hear about it in the car on the ride home. The morning is different kids of competitions (unspecified). Later, you tie-dye a shirt, a mask, and a piece of cloth. “That’s for you, Mom. For projects.” You play in the creek a lot. You paint your fingernails. You make a journal. You and Amalia renew the friendship you’re pretty sure you’ve always had. At the end of the day, you and your fellow campers break the 17-year speed record for cleaning up the site, and receive two jolly ranchers in acknowledgement. You are pumped to go back tomorrow.

doing your part in the marble races
doing your part in the marble races
painting rocks with Amalia
painting rocks with Amalia
playing in the creek
playing in the creek

(Bob also takes great photos.)

Back home, you call your friend Alex, taking my phone outside for privacy. “First of all, we’re on the move again!” you report as you head up the stairs. (I will leave the rest of your discussion to your own recollection.) When you finish, you return my phone and take your tablet to the balcony to listen to Harry Potter and, perhaps, appreciate the view.



We go out for dinner down in the small town, a few minutes drive down the hill. You select a cheese pizza off the kids menu and play a game of jumbo jenga with me while it cooks. By the time it arrives, it’s our turn for the giant chess set. You and Paul play each other with slices of pizza in your hands. (Fresh off of chess camp and officially MUCH better than I am at the game, Paul advises you on all your moves.) Dad calls an end to the game so the next family can play, and we drive back up the hill.

A lemon popsicle is your dessert selection; you eat it on the balcony again. “You should have a pop, Mom—they’re real good.” We lurch toward bedtime, getting teeth moderately brushed and applying aloe to Paul’s red arms. “I learned that lesson the hard way a few weeks ago,” you share, intending comfort. “The top layer of my skin died.”

I read a book outloud, and then you read yours, a Terry Pratchett offering from George that you seem to be enjoying. Paul curls up in the bottom half of your bed, and we send him out again on the third talking infraction, at 8:45. Bedtime has slipped badly on this grand tour. As the windows finally darken, you go to sleep.

a day in your life

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

At 4am, the thunderstorm starts. I hear it loud and clear through my earplugs, so we’re braced for your visit at any point. You don’t come upstairs for comfort, though. You and Paul instead build a little bunker on the floor, with your hand-me-down nap mats and the dresser drawers pulled out over you to make a roof. You weather the weather here and fall back asleep at maybe 6. We don’t see you until you finally wake up for good at 8:15. Only then do you come upstairs and find me drinking coffee and reading the paper, just like I remember finding my parents. Also like child-me, you climb on in with me and do your own reading: Ramona Quimby, Age 8, which we’ve checked out from the library and downloaded to my kindle. Recent visits by Reading Specialist Amy + the example of your older friend Sage have propelled you into a new phase of reading, and you’re chugging through chapter books now. It’s fun to see.

We’re puttering around deciding what to do next when we encounter the boys, preparing for an ambitious bike ride. Do you want to go? Sure! So we’re in too, and all four of us get sunscreened and helmeted for adventure.


Dad, well past caring what anyone thinks, has the genius idea to blast the Matilda the Musical soundtrack from a speaker on his bike, which tethers you and Paul close to him. We cruise through the first couple miles through the busiest part of the trail and break for a snack at Lou Neff Point.


We continue, Matilda giving way to Annie and other musical classics. You perservere through numb hands and a blister and hill after hill.


The boys peel off for a trip to the donut shop, and you and I head home. We walk in and soak up the AC; the boys show up and distribute breakfast treats. Ready for some sedentary activity, you boot up Minecraft on your new Chromebook and play for, oops, maybe two hours, with the soothing hum of a Harry Potter audiobook in your ear.

Time for more sunscreen and exercise! Dad loads you up for a trip to Mabel Davis, one of our favorite public pools. An ice-cream-truck popsicle fuels you through games of Sharks and Minnows and Marco Polo. Dad estimates he chases you around the fountain 75 times. Everyone has a blast. At four you come home and snuggle on the couch for The Peanuts Movie and popcorn. It’s a big hit.


We eat a quick dinner and get ready for bed. You want to read the book tonight and pick The Day the Crayons Quit, an old favorite. You read with emotion, channeling the ennui of beige crayon just right.

You don't read this page, but when I ask to take a photo, you select it to pose with. Green is a favorite color.
You don’t read this page, but when I ask to take a photo, you select it to pose with. Green is a favorite color.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 8 years and 1 month old.

"Mom, this is just the right amount of orange juice for two little cups."
“Mom, this is just the right amount of orange juice for two little cups.”

You start the morning at the breakfast table, eating cereal and reading DogMan. All is going smoothly, so Dad treats you both to a little Mario on the couch. At 7:10 you lace up your shoes, and we head out on our walk. It’s wet from rain last night, and we pass a few squashed frogs on the road. “Ew.”

You tell me that you know how to make a glue out of primroses (“the ones you call buttercups, Mom”), and make plans to come back to the mulberry tree for a big afternoon harvest. As we approach school, you tell me about your dreams, and we speculate about how maybe, in a few years, there will be a way to tell what people are dreaming when they’re asleep, and how much time is passing in waking life. You give Dad and I a hug, and head into the school.


On the way home from school, you sneak your hand into mine and I wonder how much longer you will do this. You and Paul engage in a lengthy debate about the circumstances under which a classmate of yours is nice. Verdict: only to his boy friends. Then you reflect on your own friends. So many of them are bullies, you fear, like Cruz, who used to be your friend, and like Jade. “I felt like I was her servant.” With Lily and Nikki, you feel nervous that they will stop liking you. You are concerned that you make Alex feel the same way. I feel that words of wisdom are called for, but have none handy, so respond with understanding but no advice. Does this help? I hope so.

At home, you present me with your tablet; I enter the code so you can play Minecraft and listen to Harry Potter. At 4:30 I finish work and pry you away. You and Paul dig a hole for Vinci the guppy, who died 10 days ago and has been chilling in the fridge in a paper clip box, waiting for his funeral service. We’re tamping down the soil as babysitter Jade arrives. She hangs out with you in the backyard, and you play 10 minutes of tennis on the courts, for Paul’s sake. You gather some rocks and paint them for your friends, then enjoy a dinner of mac and cheese. Jade reads to you a bit and says goodnight.

I peek in on you at 8:45. You and Paul are both in your bed, all your stuffed animals massed around you, dividing the space into a little pod for each of you. You look happy and in your element.

a day in your life

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

Birthdays are emotional, I tell you what. For me and Dad (8 years ago we were what???), for you, for Paul…all the feelings. Paul comes out of your bedroom and collapses in a heap of fuss at the breakfast table. You spend 15 minutes in your room, picking your outfit, grooming, preparing for your day. (“I look perfect today,” you tell me later.) By the time you emerge, Dad has taken Paul for a game of tennis with head lamps to cheer him up, and you find a stack of chocolate chip pancakes on your plate. They’re sort of a murkey aqua color from the rainbow sprinkles I stirred in. You tuck in while reading Dog Man.

You are very sensitive to Paul’s distress about your special day. “Paul’s birthday was really hard for me,” you tell me quietly. You let him choose when you open presents, and agree on one this morning. I recommend it—one that has a little something for him, too. We leave for school with your two new little bird lovies flying along beside us.



As usual, Paul runs ahead once we get to school grounds. We say goodbye to him, and you take Dad’s hand and mine, and walk between us to the front door. Hugs all around and wishes for a happy day. You tell me that at 10:30, during reading, you told your friends you were now 8 years old. Later, you share chocolate chip cookies with the class, and save one for Paul.

Usually on Mondays you go to an afterschool art club for an hour, but today I pick you both right up so you can play at the park with some friends. On your way out, you open another present. ROLLER SKATES, from Gobka and Gamma. We lace them up, and you do a few slippery laps around the kitchen.


Donning your birthday crown and sash, you head to meet best-friend Alex in the park, and invite her back home. She tidies up the loft and bangs around on the piano; you enjoy her company. At 4:20 she says goodbye, and you do some epic building in Minecraft while I attend a last meeting and Dad cooks mac and cheese for dinner.

We eat. Gobka and Gamma call to sing to you. We present you with a birthday cake, a treasured family recipe that shall remain nameless, made by your cousin Lyla. You eat a few bites, regretfully inform us you no longer like this cake, and eat a popsicle instead. (We are not to tell Lyla lest we hurt her feelings. It was, in actual fact, delicious.)

(Your birthday wish is to be together again with all your friends in class next year, and no one leaves.)

Dad and Paul adjourn to the tennis courts, again. You open another present—a drawing instruction book from Granddad and Susu, which you declare “very cool,” and read a bit more Dog Man. Then it’s time for some additional roller skating through all rooms of the house. You hold onto my arm and are very careful of my toes.


I start a bath for Paul, and you convince Dad to read you some Norse mythology. You’re deep into the D’aulaires tales and going strong. He keeps reading through your bath as well, and into bedtime. You settle in to rest, and we say goodnight at 7:40ish.

THUMP. Twenty minutes later, you’re back in the living room.

“Mom, I don’t like it when the light is off. Today at school we watched a movie with a chupacabra in it, and now I’m scared of it.”

Back on goes the light. You climb into Paul’s bed for company, with another Dog Man book to read and your favorite Christmas sweater on for comfort. You are a girl who knows what she needs, and my god, I love you so much.

a day in your life

To Annie:

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

a day in your life

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

a day in your life

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

a day in your life

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

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

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

"Mom, can I?"
“Mom, can I?”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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