a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 11 months old.

You and Paul are up a few minutes before 7, busy with your business, and we speculate that you might dress yourselves this morning. Sure enough, at ten after you emerge in typically creative get-up, wearing striped tights and “Christmas shirts.” Your shirt is a hand-me-down nightgown from Lyla, which you’ve tucked into your tights. You quickly decide this does not meet your standard, and retreat to your room to revise. We give you a few minutes before Dad comes in to try and help select a new top. You reject all proposals.

I tag in and find you in the fetal position. “I pinky-promised Paul we’d both wear Christmas clothes, and I don’t HAVE ANY,” you complain/confide. It is, to be clear, March. I suggest and you reject probably all the same options Dad presented, plus some ideas for Christmas accessories. It’s clear you want to wear another Lyla-sourced item: a lovely dark red sweater with embroidered detail. But the sleeves are too long. Unacceptable. It’s 7:45 and no sign of another exit, so I do some on-the-fly tailoring to bring up the sleeves and attach some additional bling. Finally, we descend.

"No pictures!" you literally say.
“No pictures!” you say as I take this. Sorry, sweetie, you owe me.

Your spirits dramatically improve with a little breakfast. We manage some kindergarten work, sorting coins, while you eat mini-pancakes and dried apple and blow bubbles in your milk. We discuss Thomas Jefferson while you circle nickles. I stick to the basics.


Dad takes you to school, where you pull on your mask and head for the playground. You’re doing a lot of outdoor play these days after a positive covid case closed the 3-year-old class and spooked all the teachers. Thank goodness most of them are now at least partially vaccinated.

In a surprise to no one, you come home in different clothes. Yours and Paul’s were both soaked while “helping clean up.” Your lovely, hand-tailored sweater with embroidered detail is wadded up in a plastic bag, and also splattered with dark blue paint. Let it go…

Dinner is hot dogs and raw cabbage, which you’ve enjoyed before, but not so much tonight. It’s a dessert night, so we enjoy the pleasure of your company while you carve up an ice cup. We reminesce about splash days at the CDC, and you propose we institute a new Splash Day tradition, at home, on Saturdays. Great plan, we’re in.

back to business
back to business

We clean up from dinner and get back to what matters most: playing the “robot game.” It’s the tutorial for the PS5, and also the first video game either of you have managed to play yourselves. You are obsessed. Paul is allowed a turn to get started, and after that it’s a family affair, with you primarily in the drivers seat. You tag Dad and I in for help as needed. “DAD, I need your help! You know how I feel about gooey things.” This consumes the rest of the evening.

Dad sort of casually defeats the game for the 5th time. He is real tired of it. At seven, we head up for bed. Pretending to be a kitty cat motivates you up the stairs. In your room, you and Paul commence a game of rasperry-blowing, with the primary target of my knees. Oh, it tickles. My insistence on “clean berries” gets you to brush your teeth. You are beginning to settle in for books as Dad arrives, but then the need for a cup of milk has you downstairs again. Dad carries you both back up on his hips—amazing this is still possible—and I pass out toothbrushes again. It’s in bed for a couple chapters of Dogman, and some additional chivvying to stay there. Goodnight, you little goobers. Goodnight.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 10 months old.

Paul bursts out of the door when your light turns green, but you stay snuggled in bed. I visit you there, and you toss the blanket over your head. I ask if I can come into your bed fortress, and you wiggle in assent. We play the game where you pretend to sleep while I brush your teeth and pull on your clothes. You roll out of bed and give me a little assist to pick you up (45 pounds now), and I carry your “sleeping” body downstairs for breakfast.

(the clock is wrong)
(the clock is wrong)

Two strawberry muffins later, you’re ready for what kindergarten looks like these days. Your teacher Mrs. Dunbar calls you at 7:45 for a solo chat. We’ve done it before, periodically, and restarted this week after you submitted a heartbreaking answer to a short assignment on Monday, asking you to describe how you feel. “I’m scared to do kindergarten work,” you dictated. So now, private lessons. You are thrilled. I like listening to you talk with your teacher and telling her what’s on your mind.

After some chitchat, she directs you to a video about Ruby Bridges, which you keep watching as she begins letting the other children into the virtual classroom. By 8:15, we’re helping you shimmy into some tights on top of the stretch pants you’re already wearing—it’s a cold day, and getting colder—and loading up in the car.

Dad drops you off, without major incident. The cold keeps you inside all day, which makes you happy about pick-up. Dad mesmerizes you on the way home with a video of…a dad…building something. At home, you sit down to reject a dinner of tomatoes, yogurt, farro (plain), goat cheese, and a mandarin orange. Your mind is on dessert, because it is a dessert day, and you have already decided on a cherry ice cup. Because we have poor boundaries about when exactly dessert starts, you take one bite of everything and then head to the freezer. On the upside, these particular desserts keep you seated at the table, carving away at the ice, for about 20 minutes. We enjoy the time with you.

When you’re finally finished, you and Paul work together to help Dad load the next item for his new toy, a 3-D printer. You two are the primary beneficiaries of this hobby: to add to your collection of tiny trucks that nest in eggs, spinning helicopters, unicorns, robots, and rocketships, he is now making you glow-in-the-dark butterflies.


It’s bath time. You hop right in and sing to yourself. Black History Month continues at school, clearly: you have watched another video about Martin Luther King Jr. and are desparately curious about the person who killed him. You want to know his name, and see his picture, and want to know HOW he killed him, and how old was Martin Luther King (39!!), and do people really go to jail for their whole lives? and what do you eat in jail? Paul tries desparately to change the subject. Bath ends.


We’ve promised you the Pinkalicious Valentines Day Special, which is what you are watching as I type this. It lacks the sneaky STEM lessons we count on PBS to provide, but it’s darn wholesome. At 7, we head bedward, and I close the night with a reread of Jack and Annie Book 1. Magic Treehouse time travel to the time of the dinosaurs sends you to sleep.

a day in your life

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

A good day. You bustle in first thing with news that the ladybug who had been crawling on the ceiling above you last night (and causing some consternation) was STILL THERE. You now seem quite fond of her. Buoyed by the arrival of your new shiny purple cowboy boots, purchased in part with toothfairy funds from your first two lost teeth, you select an outfit, dress quickly, and head downstairs.

Kindergarten today involves recording yourself reading the numbers in Spanish as you connect 22 dots to trace the shape of a gingerbread person. Check, done. You and Paul are extremely excited that Dad has agreed to a long-time request: today you will ride your bike and scooter to school. Oh, the anticipation. We load up the stroller with your large volume of supplies and take off down the street.


It is extremely important to you that you be in front. Paul allows it. We make it all the way there, with only a few minutes of terror as the cars whiz past us on South 1st street. You glow with pride, and Ms. Patricia is full of praise for your accomplishment on arrival. After the usual safety drill, you disappear into the school and your day. Eleanor is there to play with, and the 2-year-old you have taken under your wing presents you with, as you will tell me later, “The most AMAZING THING EVER.” It’s a Lisa Frank trapper keeper. I have no words.


After dinner, you invite me upstairs to see if your ladybug friend is still there, and are thrilled to discover she is still roaming your ceiling! You move a plant closer to her in case it provides her some aphids to snack on. Her comfort attended to, you set me to work coloring one of the most beautiful pages in your new coloring pad. “You do it however you want, Mom. It will be better than mine.” Yeah, we’re still working on practice and persistence. You go to take a bath, but I am not reprieved until the picture is finished.


Afterward, we work on a puzzle with puppies and penguins and polar bear cubs. It’s nice working with you. We talk about getting a gift for Olivia in return, and you decide to pass down your very most precious light-up Elsa shoes. Wow.

Dad reads a chapter of Stuart Little, which you are quite enjoying, and says goodnight. Twenty minutes later, we see you a final time. It’s important. “Mom, I changed my mind. I want to give her my NOT light-up Frozen shoes.” Well, okay then. That’s just fine.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is what happened the day you turned 5 years and 7 months old.

You wake me out of a dead sleep at 6:23, standing at the bedside to tell me, “My tummy hurts and I think I have to throw up and there’s a hair in my throat.” Paul is on your heels with a, “Me TOO!” I look at you, clearly in the prime of youth and health. I send you back to your room with the suggestion to have a drink of water, and you and Paul start building train tracks.

Ten minutes later you’re back. “Paul made me hit my face on his bed!” you say, and point to your forehead. I retrieve an ice pack for you. Back in your room, it is clear the source of the drama is a conflict between the expansion of the railroad and your elaborate “Pinky Store” industrial complex that covers 100% of the floor space with a meticulous and continually evolving arrangement of pillows, blankets, stools, pathways, nurseries for animal babies, books, and suppplies of various sorts. New train tracks have disrupted your horse’s stable and grazing territory. Story of America. I leave you to broker a peace deal with the offer to come divide the room in half if necessary.

The Pinky Store is a significant factor in all of our lives right now.
The Pinky Store is a significant factor in all of our lives right now.

Ten minutes later, it’s Paul. You have broken his train track, and it’s pretty clear your relationship is over forever. After a great deal of silent contemplation, you agree to relocate several Pinky Store components to make way for the railroad, and Paul returns to the scene with the stipulation that I help him with construction. It is 6:55.

Dad returns from his run and tags in. Plenty of playtime already under your belts, you get dressed and brush teeth quickly, and head downstairs for cereal and to watch me pack your school snacks with great interest. You decline your kindergarten work, and since you’ve been reliably joining your teacher for a lunchtime call and work session, we don’t push it. I help you into some tights, and we load up in the car. Dad drives you to Colibri, and you head through the health checkpoint for a day of enriching activity.

At school, you tell me, you play in the sandbox, log into Kindergarten at nap to learn about farm animals with Mrs. Dunbar in Spanish and English (gavra, burro), and then join virtual art class with Ms. Isolene. Did you do any art? I ask. No. But, “I learned that art is beautiful, even if you mess up.” Excellent.

Dad picks you up and you trot up to the house at 5 or so, finding me sitting on the front porch. You crawl into my lap for a quick cuddle, then ask why I didn’t take your picture—because now you know about the 10th of the month. You give me a quick download of info from school, then pursue your interests inside. “Can I have some apple chips as an appetite?” Appetizer, I help you say, and yes, you may have three. While dinner finishes cooking, you watch an episode of Let’s Go, Luna, learning about pasta and Rome. It’s a good lead-in to our lasagna dinner, which you relish. Paul is having none of it, though, so you do your best to coax him back to the table, telling him it’s made with Snoopy’s secret ingredient. Magic poop.

“I don’t LIKE magic poop.”

“Well, what DO you like?”


You lost two teeth in the last month.

We straggle through the end of dinner, and play a game together that involves sending pings through a coordinate plane. Muy educational. It’s 7pm. We head upstairs, and you change clothes, brush your teeth, and bustle around Pinky Shop for a spell. You decline to read a picture book, but we review what happened last night in our chapter of Charlotte’s Web. (Fern and Avery eat blueberry pie, we remember together, and Avery has a frog in his pocket, and they swing on the swing for an hour, and then Fern goes to visit Wilbur, and Avery tries to knock Charlotte out of her web, but he accidentally breaks the rotten goose egg, and it smells so bad that they run away, and then that night Charlotte tears out a big part of her web and starts WORKING ON SOMETHING. And we don’t find out what it is until Dad reads us the chapter tonight, so, Bodies in Bed!)

Dad reads the next chapter. You hang on his words. Some Pig.

a day in your life

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

a day in your life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

a day in your life

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

a day in your life

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

a day in your life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a day in your life

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

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

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

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

IMG_20200510_105219 IMG_20200510_105641 IMG_20200510_111348

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

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

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


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

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

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