a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 7 years and 1 month old.

You sit down at the breakfast table right on time and chat with us while Dad makes the standard morning pancakes. I cross my fingers in the sign language you invented to inquire whether you would like two ponytails this morning, and you affirm that selection. I gently extract yesterday’s rubberbands, comb out the snarls, and re-tail your hair.

It’s the home stretch of the school year, and you have a daily calendar of special events. Today you are to wear pajamas and bring a favorite book. I make sure you’ve got shorts and a tank on underneath your long-sleeve flannel—it’s going to be in the 90s again.

We walk to school. You and Paul lag behind, heads together in your own world, talking about insects and plants. We find an owl feather as we approach the school. You notice that no one else walking up is wearing pajamas and do some positive self-talk. “Be brave, Annie. This IS pajama day.”

You disappear into the cafeteria as the bell rings, and go on to your day. It IS pajama day, it turns out, and thank goodness, because it means we get a cute class photo from Mrs. Nuncio.

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You all read some of your favorite books to the class. You report you read a full chapter of the 6th-grade-reading-level book Framed. “Are you SUPER impressed, Mom?” Mmm…hmm.

On the way home, you walk with Dad and listen with interest as he tells you about colorblindness, and rods and cones. You catch up with Paul and I as we scavenge mulberries. You both collect as many as you can hold to make potions or paint back at home, and happily engage in mess-making while we pull together dinner.

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We eat a simple dinner, and you politely request 10 minutes of Monster School, an extremely stupid youtube video with Minecraft characters. Blech. Sure, 10 minutes, but clean up your paint potions first. You do.

Bathtime is bubbly, and you and Paul pretend there are sharks and orcas and build Arctic mountains, an ongoing game. Out and dry, you climb up to bed and put on clothes for tomorrow. Dad reads you Fox in Socks—still great—and we say goodnight. Goodnight!

a day in your life

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

You wake up in heaven, i.e. on the sunny side of a sleepover with Eleanor, Riley, and Paul. You get straight to playing, and come down about an hour later for breakfast. We see you at 8:30, and load you up immediately for our first birthday event. Per your request, it is at the Wildflower Center with your sleepover buddies, best friend Jade, and Silas and Sage. The morning is beautiful. You all play together, more or less, and enjoy chocolate chip cookies and crystal light lemonade.

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We boogie back home for lunch and then turn right around for our next adventure: The Lion King at Bass Concert Hall. I got us great tickets in a low-covid buying spree back in the fall, hoping you’d be grown-up enough to enjoy it for your birthday. You are! You find the puppets entrancing. (Paul keeps asking, “is this really happening?” and you answer, “yes, Paul!”)

Listening to a birthday message from Lisa, Eric, Miles, and Lyla. They're singing to you.
Listening to a birthday message from Lisa, Eric, Miles, and Lyla. They’re singing to you.

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Three hours later, we head home. Gamma slipped your birthday gift to us during our trip to Kerrville, so we video-call them and you open it. It’s a science experiment kit—perfect. We set up in the lab and make emulsions with oil, water, and a series of other ingredients. You carefully log procedures and findings in your lab book.

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Dinner is again your selection: mac and cheese, raspberries, cucumber slices. You’ve decided you don’t like cake, so Dad got you an ice cream cake instead, and you administer your own candles. We sing. You try not to smile. You blow out your candles. “I made a wish,” you declare, “I wished for my family to be happy.” You like knowing the right answers.

We wrap things up with a bath and a story from a book you got today: 5-minute Stories for Fearless Girls. Right up your alley, big kid.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 11 months old.

You wake me up today, strolling in at 6:45 to find me bleary-eyed in bed. You keep me gentle company through my first half-cup of coffee, and we go downstairs as the pancakes are coming out of the pan. I brush and braid your hair while you eat. You put on your socks and read the morning announcements, imitating school:

“I pledge allegiance, to the flag, one nation, under god…I pledge allegiance, to the Texas flag… For lunch today, there will be bean and cheese tacos, and fresh apple slices. Remember to be safe, kind, and respectful.”

One second later, you step on a garter snake. Everyone is fine.
One second later, you step on a garter snake. Everyone is fine.

We walk to school, talking about the value of coins, and which presidents are on which bills, and what they did, and why is it all boys again?? Dad walks you and Paul to the door. The district made masks optional this week: you’re still sporting your N95 while Paul is happily coughing unimpeded on his classmates.

The main learning activity today is GROUP PROJECTS, creating habitat dioramas. You are working with Asma and Roalbert (my favorite name in your class), building a pond in a shoebox. Your work is not living up to your standards, but you seem to be rolling with it. Each group member has an animal for the habitat: yours is a snapping turtle. You also visit the library, one of your favorite places, and go to music class, where you’re singing about kindness.

In Creative Action, everyone works together to paint a paper mache dragonfly. You tell me later that getting paint on your shirt is the worst part of your day (your “thorn”). I pick you up a bit late, at 5:20, and we drive home to get to our Chinese take-out dinner while it’s hot.

You assign yourself one chunk of rice per math problem completed.
You assign yourself one chunk of rice per math problem completed.

You’re in good spirits through dinner, disemboweling dumplings and refilling their skins with rice. Your auspicious fortune reads, “A happy event will take place in your home.” Never bad news! We work our way through a little homework, and then you announce a Dance Off upstairs, and run off to set the stage.

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There’s not much dancing at the Dance Off, but the instrumentals and the puppet show are fabulous. Paul loses interest and goes to play a mountain biking video game. You invite me to the stage for some yoga moves, and sing me a lullaby. We call Susu to find out the name of an app with peaceful noises. Dad tags in for some shadow puppetry and reads you The Berenstain Bears: The Messy Room.

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You get your teeth brushed and some clothes changed, but aren’t quite ready to climb into bed. You try Paul’s instead. The price of admission is to write a fact on his chalkboard. You write, “I love you, Paul.” He disputes whether this is a fact, and you engage in debate. Finally he issues you a ticket, and I say goodnight as you climb aboard.

Ten minutes later, you’re back in your own bed, calling each other names—in other words, ready to sleep. Goodnight for real!

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 10 months old.

At 6:35, you’re asleep in your bed, with Paul at your side. I climb up and squash between you. You challenge me to guess your favorite page in the Usborne Science Dictionary you’ve slept with: I guess animals, but it’s food groups. We review the two kinds of carbohydrates. You tell me your tummy sort of hurts. Let’s get some food in you! Surprise, it’s chocolate chip pancakes. Fourth day in a row.

As we prepare to leave the house, you decide your pants will not do, and head upstairs to change into a different pair of leggings with a hole in the knee. Surprisingly, this does not address your greivance of being too cold. A large, hooded, puffy jacket is also inadequate. You creep down the sidewalk as slowly as possible, a deep scowl on your face. I try to maintain a gravitational pull forward without getting too far ahead or paying you too much attention. Sous helpfully poops, giving me an excuse to loiter 10 feet in front of you, looking at something else. You inch closer.

“I have SO MANY THINGS TO COMPLAIN ABOUT!” you exclaim. “I wanted to have VITAMINS.”

“I can hear that you’re really unhappy,” I say sympathetically, right out of a parenting book.

Complaint issued, you muster the strength to go on. We pick up our pace, trotting a bit with Sous and eventually catching up to Dad and Paul. By the time we arrive at school, you are cheerful again, and highly motivated to get through the door before the bell rings, crowd of kindergarten acquaintences be damned. (“Pirates law,” Dad declares. “Wait for no one.”)

At school you begin science experiments to see if a lettuce leaf will stay crisper in salt or fresh water (your hypothesis: fresh) and if water will stay in a sealed bag or evaporate (stay). Science is your favorite, and this is right up your alley. It’s music today, and you play a singing game called “Doggy doggy, where’s your bone.” You explain the rules to me on the way home; they sound elaborate.

You do not appreciate being secretly photographed. Fair point.
You do not appreciate being secretly photographed. Fair point.

A few minutes after 5, we parents roll up to your afterschool portable, and you slip out the door. We get you packed up and start our walk home. Tomorrow is a planning day for teachers, so this Thursday night feels Friday-ish, and we make big plans for video games and popcorn after dinner and homework. Your homework all week has been writing valentines to each of your classmates—homemade, with “a positive message.” It’s been sweet hearing you craft messages to some of your friends about what you like about them. “I like how Margaret comes by my desk every morning and says hi.”

Margaret is not destined to receive that message, however, because when we arrive home, all your will to work melts away into fury and despair. Dad tries every positive, supportive trick in his book, but your dedication to not writing a single letter is ironclad. Twenty or so minutes later, you both come down, and Dad announces that “video night” is OFF. Poor Paul bursts into earnest tears.

A proposal is made: a timer will be set for 5 minutes, during which time you will work on your g-d valentines. After a few false starts during which you intentionally write letters incorrectly and slowwwly erase them, you manage to crank one out.

Oh Margaret, you'll never know how she really appreciates you.
Oh Margaret, you’ll never know how she really appreciates you.

We all declare victory and eat dinner with relief. Then, sure fine, video games. Paul plays Astro’s Playroom and you continue to add to your Minecraft rosebush palace. We all hang out in the dark, engaged in our own pursuits (I’m writing this) and chatting aimiably. Screens for the win.

showing me your pet zombie you've trapped
Proudly showing me the pet zombie you’ve trapped. “They eat dead owl’s blood, I gotta say.”

It’s bedtime, thank god, and it’s a totally smooth ride. Okay, not the best day ever, but we made it.

a day in your life

It’s Monday. To console yourself, you decide to wear your new clothes and dress “like a jungle,” in a leaf-green shirt and floral pants, with coordinating N95. You eat overnight oats we had the foresight to make the night before, and a homemade waffle courtesy of Dad’s unbelievable patience for cooking breakfast foods on weekday mornings. It’s 45 degrees on our walk to school, which you execute without a jacket, firm in your principles to never, ever ever, wear a coat.

checking your pretend phone before descending from bed
checking your pretend phone before descending from bed
walking to school
walking to school, cold

You are one of four kids in class today, out of 18. Lino, Margaret, Eddy, and you, you tell me. Mrs. Nuncio let you look at books while you waited for more kids to show up, but they didn’t. There was a covid exposure last week, so presumably the rest of the class was home sick or scared. Omicron, man, I tell you what.

You’re just fine, though—symptom-free, testing negative, and vaccinated up to your eyeballs—so school is the place to be. It’s PE today, and the four of you play the parachute game. At the count of 3, you lift up the parachute, and two people run under it to switch spots. You and Lino go together, then Margaret and Eddy. Then you put soft lovies on the parachute and try to launch them off. I remember doing this in elementary school: it is rad.

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At Creative Action, you work on a family portrait, and decorate a mask. (“You’ll probably throw it away,” you tell me, “but that’s okay.”) Daddy arrives in the car rather than on foot—a special treat—and takes you to the new house to roll out the trash bins. Then it’s home for dinner, and you only freak out a little bit about the presence of tortellini on your plate before eating a bowl of meaty sauce all by itself, like a stew.

Dad and Paul start playing a video game, and you pop up after a minute to try for a poop, during which time you tell me all about your day of school while I type it up on my laptop (present moment, not pictured). We do the bedtime drill, and that’s all she wrote!

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 8 months old.

Morning arrives. We apply some icky nail polish as part of your currently successful anti-thumb-sucking campaign, and shimmy into shorts and a t-shirt for this 85-degree December day. Downstairs, you negotiate over which advent calendar is yours to open this morning (you gave your turn to Paul for the lego Harry Potter calendar yesterday, so it’s his turn again this morning, but you get to open the Trader Joe’s calendar with the chocolate pieces that we cut precisely in half for you to share. Yeah, it’s complicated.)

Between bites of breakfast you squeeze in your math homework: transforming numbers by adding and subtracting 10s and 1s. We run out of time for your reading, regretfully, and pledge again to start a New Routine where we actually do homework at night. But this morning, here we are. We grab shoes, and brush your hair, and pick some masks, and pack a snack, put on Sous’ leash, and phew, here we go. On our walk, you ask me if there’s anything I want to talk about, and we have a lovely conversation about our plans for the weekend. Dad walks you up to the door and watches as the gravity of the school draws you in. We see you again at 5.

walking home with Paul
walking home with Paul
taking off your socks and telling me how bad your day was
taking off your socks and telling me how bad your day was

School, you report, was pretty bad. You had an upset stomach. You hadn’t finished all your homework and didn’t get a star. You had to take a mask break, in a designated private spot in the classroom where you can set a two-minute timer and draw or relax with your mask off. It was a PE day, which you usually love, but maybe today not so much. You and Paul bickered on the walk home, but at least you manage to agree on a movie for movie night: Elf.

At intermission we eat pot stickers and apple slices, then popcorn as we finish the movie. You stay up a little late to see the end. Upstairs, we trim a cuticle while you brainstorm more weekend plans and assure me you will not be resting well tonight. I read a little bit of Harry Potter 4, as the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang arrive for the Tri-Wizard Tournament. I say goodnight. Sorry you’re going to sleep so badly! See you in the morning.

a day in your life

To Annie, this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 7 months old.

Still adjusting to the time change, you and Paul are awake by 6 and playing happily. I get ready for our day, listening to you in the background, until 6:40. You’re working on a lego village, and I help build a rainforest for the green Hatchimals while gently inserting tooth brushing and dressing into the game. You keep playing while I make breakfast, and come down when I call you at 7.

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You dig into your mango smoothie, toast, and math homework, counting by fives to total up nickels, and submit quietly to hair brushing. I have decided to do your hair brushing as long as you’ll let me—I love our gorilla grooming time. You and Paul get shoes, masks, and backpacks with relatively little prodding, and we’re off to school.

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Six-and-a-half year old Annie is a delight, and I would happily press pause here for a while. You keep on growing up, though, observing the world around you and developing new interests in things like human evolution. You’ve declared your intention to become a librarian when you grow up.

At school, it’s your third day with a substitute teacher, Miss H, whom you tolerate. She gives you worksheets, it sounds like, which you think are harder than whan Mrs. Nuncio usually has you work on. It’s a music class day, though, and you have a good time playing instruments and a game to the tune of…some song about an apple tree. Paul has the same class, and you sing together and teach me the game after dinner. Creative Action after school is the BEST, with rainbow scratch paper on which you make several solar-system-themed drawings.

Pluto and Saturn, wearing winter hats because they're cold. In another drawing, Jupiter "has a look on his face" because the sun is so much bigger than him.
Pluto and Saturn, wearing winter hats because they’re cold. In another drawing, Jupiter “has a look on his face” because the sun is so much bigger than him.

I arrive at 5:15 with a baggie of blueberries and dragging feet thanks to my headcold. You and Paul take it pretty easy on me, putting us in a line to march home with all the important roles: line leader, door-holder, and line monitor who assesses and reports on the line quality with a thumbs up, sideways, or down. We get home. I have prepared nothing for dinner, and you announce your devestating hunger. I ask you to choose between corn dogs, dumplings, or a peanut butter sandwich. You select a corn dog as the “least bad” and eat it with ketchup and giant apple slices.

You and Paul do a little swinging in the dark with our backyard lanterns for extra flare, then move it to a “night bath” with lanterns perched above the tub. You declare it a peaceful space, and we all stay quiet and listen to the water.

I need a little time to clean up the house and write this post—Dad’s on a work trip—so I turn on a show. Paul selects Donkey Hodie (get it?), the latest muppet venture from the studio of Mr. Rodgers. Wholesome lessons flow. You climb up into Paul’s bed for a few pages of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which you talked Dad into starting a few nights ago. Mrs. Weasley is upset with your favorites Fred and George for throwing their lives away on dreams of a joke shop. You take it in quietly, and go to sleep quickly. Goodnight, 1st grader.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 and a half years old.

You sleep in until seven, then head downstairs to request and then reject Dad’s made-to-order breakfast tacos. I return from a jog to a display just inside the front door: you have wrapped up a package delivered to me like a present, and arranged fall decorations and a welcoming committee around it.

"It was Pinky's idea to wrap the present," you tell me.
“It was Pinky’s idea,” you tell me.

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You I find driving laps in your latest favorite video game. “Annie, stay in the lane, now, stay in the lane,” you coach yourself.

Interested in a project and some Mom-time, you jump at the suggestion to work on invitations for the Halloween party we just decided to throw. You draw tiny versions of every Halloween-y thing we can think of: pumpkins, bats, spiders, zombies, witches hats, candy, a skeleton…then you look to literature for greater inspiration. Something magic like in Harry Potter? No, Dog Man is the place for scary stuff. An evil tadpole who can fly and and move things with her mind joins the illustration mix. The book becomes too compelling to put down, so we read the whole thing.

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Paul and Dad return from Costco, laden with groceries and ten giant pumpkins. We pack up and head for a very exciting destination: Lost Pines resort, where Lisa and Lyla have invited us to hang out with them for an afternoon of swimming and cousin fun.

We do a Lazy River lap, and then Paul discovers the water slide and attempts to set the world record (grand total slides = 47). You, Lyla, and I order lunch, and then you girls do a few more laps yourself. You have a blast. Lisa joins us after a therapy session, and we build sand castles. You do another river lap with Lyla and Lisa, and a final one with me. You pretend to fight your way through the fallen pecan leaves in the water: “Punch! Punch! Punch punch!”

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We rinse the sand off our feet and make a final stop on our way out at the little arcade room, where dear Lyla spends $7 in quarters trying to grab you a ball.

Back home, you and Paul decompress with half an hour of Harry Potter while I make dinner; then you eat a strange meal of dumplings, corn bread, and tomatoes, with candy vampire teeth for dessert.

It’s bath time, with your weekly hair wash and conditioner slick. I finish up The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, and Dad starts in on Going Solo. We’re scraping the bottom of the Roald Dahl collection. Dad issues his usual threats about sending Paul back to his own bed if you two can’t quiet down and go to sleep. By ten till eight, you do.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 5 months old.

You wake up with Paul in his bed and get to playing, and are jovially bopping around your room when Dad enters at 6:35. You climb the side of your bed all the way to the bathroom counter to brush your teeth, then grab your dress and head downstairs.

"So is this what Dementors look like with their hoods off?"
“So is this what Dementors look like with their hoods off?”

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The sight of apple slices on your breakfast plate prompts a now-uncharacteristic shriek lifted straight from age 4: you don’t WANT this for breakfast. Dad and I bark back at you. We make peace over mini-pancakes, and you’re ready to ask nicely to keep reading Harry Potter 3. We’re in the last chapter, having read 50 pages last night of the dramatic conclusion, and you’re anxious to hear the resolution. I read to you at the table while you brush your hair and, lo and behold, eat your apple slices. We also take a page out of your yellow school folder, and you show me how you can read syllables in Spanish. “Ah, ma, sa, la, ta, da, rra…” You are proud and I am too.

It’s 7:10 and time to head out. You select a mask and a hat, because it’s Spirit Week, and today is “thinking cap” day. We head off for our magical daily walk to school. It’s 68 degrees and beautiful.

Susu made you this cap.
Susu made you this cap.
You carry our masks under your hat, proud of the innovation.
You carry our masks under your hat, proud of the innovation.
Paul puts his arms out for a "hug stop." You humor him.
Paul puts his arms out for a “hug stop.” You humor him.

You and Paul break into a run across the bridge to the school, and we have a “family hug” at Paul’s request before Dad hangs back with Sous and I walk you the rest of the way to the cafeteria door. Mrs. Dunbar, your former and Paul’s current kindergarten teacher, is manning the door today, and she greets you both with big smiles and cheer and Buenos Dias!! You disappear into the cafeteria. As I walk back through the park, I hear the 7:35 bell ring and imagine you walking in a line into your classroom.

Here’s what else I know: breakfast is delivered to you there, and today’s it’s a turkey sausage kolache you’re looking forward to. Lunch is pizza. (These are the important things.) Your teacher Mrs. Nuncio thinks you are working hard and doing well. You visit the library, where you sit by number at tables, next to your friend Jade, and you check out a book for a week and bring it home.

And your first library book IS...
And your first school library book IS…

At 3:10, school is dismissed, and you head to Creative Action with another kid from your class named Norman. There’s a girl there named Charlie you like. You and Paul are in the same class and eat your snack (goldfish and a dried fruit bar today), play on the playground, and do art projects until we pick you up. Dad comes today, a little before 5. You and Paul run all the way home, and he trails after you on tired legs that have already done 11 miles today.

The first order of business when you get home is to FINISH HARRY POTTER, so Dad reads you the end of the last chapter, and at long last, you start the movie. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, here we go. Half an hour in, we pause for dinner. You eat basically nothing. Back to the movie. I snuggle next to you, and you scooch in for the part where the dementors come onto the train. “This isn’t going to scare me,” you murmur to yourself.

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We get about halfway through by 7:00, then head upstairs, where you and Paul climb laps around the room again as we get ready for bed. (“ONE ‘taking off clothes’ lap, and then one ‘putting clothes on’ lap, and then a FREE lap, and then a toothbrush lap, and then a lap into bed, no TWO laps into bed.”) Phew. Properly calmed, we all climb up into Paul’s bed and read your horrifying Barbie Mermaid library book. It takes about 4 minutes, so we have time for all of Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, a permanent favorite. That Goldbug, you never know where he’ll show up.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is what happened the day you turned 6 years and 4 months old.

It is the middle of our second week of California vacation. You and Paul wake up in a king-sized bed in a cheerful room of our midcentury Berkeley Hills wreck. We have a light breakfast of whatever’s left from our last rental house-fridge that we trucked up here in a garbage bag full of ice, plus half of an enormous peach from the Mountain View farmers market. You build robots, rocket ships, and houses with a bag of mega-blocks while Dad goes for a nostalgia run through the campus and our old haunts.

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When it’s time for second-breakfast, we head to Fat Apples. You demolish an apple turnover while we tell you about walking puppy-Sous here on Sunday mornings. We pop up to Codornices Park for the hillside slide. You decline to try it, so we stroll around admiring the poodles and tall trees. “That’s a teenager redwood,” you tell me with the confidence of a Muir Woods Junior Ranger. We walk through a tunnel to the Rose Garden, and you ask me to read you all the graffiti, which I do with light edits. When we get to the entrance, you see the sign requiring masks to enter, so refuse to do so without one. We decide to walk back to the rental by ourselves.

You play some tablet games while I dash to the grocery store, and we have bagel bites for lunch. At 1:30, we meet a grad-school friend of mine (Ashley) and her two kids who are about your ages (Gemma and Everett) in Tilden Park to ride the little steam train through the redwoods. You and Paul squeeze into the seat next to me.

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Next up is the little farm, where we visit cows and chickens and enormous pigs, and you look for fish in the creek. We decide to ride the merry-go-round before we leave, and you pick out the perfect pony with a long tail of real-fake hair. You lose your nerve when mounted, though, and try a few different animals before settling into a motionless bench and persuading Paul to join you. We spin slowly in circles for three minutes.

You are pretty sure you deserve some junk from the snack bar when we’re done. I refuse, and we enter a stand-off. You crouch on the sidewalk, sucking your thumb, while I head to the car and tell you to join me when you’re ready. About ten minutes later, you come along.

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We pick up Dad and head to downtown Berkeley for an early dinner at Jupiter. We sit on the back patio and order you cheese pizza, which you eat happily while Dad and I talk about all the things that haven’t changed.

Back at the pad, we coast in for the finish with a movie (Smallfoot) and another chapter of Harry Potter. Goodnight, kiddo.