a day in your life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a day in your life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a day in your life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.