a day in your life

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

At 6:15, you emerge at the top of the stairs while I’m making coffee. “Mom, my bee-bee wants you!” Go back to bed, Paul. You go back to your bed, or Annie’s, or something. I see you again at the door of your room around 6:40, pants around your ankles. “Can you help me pull my pants up? I went potty like a big boy all by myself!” Great job, Paul! Go back to bed. You sort of do.

At 6:55 you and Annie are deep into rambunctious play. I come in and suggest we get started on our lists, so we can go check and see if our water froze into ice overnight—we put cups outside last night with a centimeter of water in them as an experiment. It’s 29 degrees. Motivated, you declare that you’ll do your list by yourself today! A big improvement over yesterday’s 30-minute morning yell-a-thon. You pass the tantrum torch to Annie and pick out a delightful outfit for yourself, get your teeth brushed, shoes on, and head downstairs on your own. I hear your faint calls from downstairs about cheese in the refrigerator and your water cup—it had not frozen—and head downstairs to join you, giving Annie space for a full meltdown.

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You munch cheerfully through breakfast and supervise my tooth-brushing. I carry you to the warm car at your request, and we drive to school, chatting in the car about trash day and buildings and whatnot. We pull up in front of school at the same time as Silas’s family, oh my goodness. You rush in and bid me farewell with zero drama.

You have a day. Who knows what happens? I know you weren’t on the playground since the windchill never rose above freezing, so there was probably some stir-craziness involved. I find you eating Cheerios at 5. You pack them up carefully, by the fistful, into a plastic cup to take to-go. Amazingly, your giant clown shoes, four sizes too big, are still on your feet. We head across the hall to get Annie, who is jealous of your snack. You immediately try to share it but are rebuffed. We make it down the hall, up the stairs, out the door, and I carry you to the car while your daredevil sister runs across the freezing sidewalk in a light dress and bare feet.

We take a picture for Dad, on his way home from California.
We take a picture for Dad, on his way home from California.

We arrive at home. You help me get frozen mini-pizzas out of the freezer, and feed Sous a generous cup of food. You lean practically your whole body into the dog food bin to scoop it out of the bottom. Dedication. You and Annie set the table with tiny bowls full of grapes and green paper plates.

Appreciate the sartorial choices.
Appreciate the sartorial choices.

We eat and open a stack of mail. The holiday solicitations have started to arrive, so we get to have some fun with free stickers and calendars and return-address labels. You eat a popsicle and adjourn to the couch to fight Annie for the World Wildlife Foundation catalog full of stuffed animals. What a genius way to solicit donations.

Time to head upstairs! You let me brush your teeth while I explain how a dentist fills cavities. We manage a pee but not, I realize now, a hand-wash. Guess I should have explained ebola, too. You are excited to put on a new shirt with snowflakes, and we pause for a musical interlude: dancing around the room in the dark and singing Jingle Bells.

For your bedtime book, you pick out the one about a goldfish coping with death. Annie gets Gertrude McFuzz from Yertle the Turtle, and you elect to read Pete the Cat (classic version) over a made-up story. So we do, and you actually go to bed without too much complaining. But you do need socks. And a drink of water. And then, wait, your doggy needs his pajamas, and they need to be green, but oh, we don’t have green, so how about blue? Okay. I close the door. You open it: your dog has come out of his pajamas. Okay. “I need help putting on my blanket.” Okay. I let my voice get a little bit testy, the boundary you seem to need. Really this time. Goodnight.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 7 months old.

I see you at 6:30, still snuggled in bed, when Paul emerges from your room to tell me something about his airplane. I pay you a quick visit, smooth your blanket, and ask you both to stay in bed until the light turns green at 7:05. You do not stay in bed, but you follow the real rule and play semi-quietly in your room. You bring the toy castle into Paul’s bed and set up a village. At 7:05 I open the door to find you both perched on top of the dresser, demonstrating once again why we have bolted it to the wall.

You are not interested in starting your morning routine, and it’s Sunday, so we’re in no hurry. I tell you it’s okay to keep playing and just come out when you’re ready for breakfast or help. You say a cheerful farewell to me but ask Sous to stay in the room. When she leaves with me, you ask me to walk back in so she’ll follow me. Smart, Annie. I don’t think I’m supposed to say it to you, but you’re smart.

Dad helps you get dressed in a weather-appropriate outfit for once, and we only tussle over shoes. You just hate them. All shoes. All of them.

Eventually, you are buckled into the stroller for a run with Dad, with a critical stop at new-favorite Howdy Donut. You lick the chocolate icing off of yours and, when you arrive home, present me with several pieces of the remainder squashed together—a donut sandwich for Mom. Aw, thanks, sweetie.

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We embark on three pretty great hours of playtime. I blow up some balloons, and you and Paul have a party. He builds things with legos while you put scotch tape over headlamp lights and pull the shades down for “a concert.” We make tea, which evolves into a large-scale lovey tea party. “Mom, may you fix Chickie?” you ask, employing your latest adorable verbal mistake. We swing in the hammock and talk about the seasons, and why it’s cooler in the fall. I offer you probably-accurate information.

Paul has been skipping his nap reliably on the weekends and then falling asleep in whatever moving vehicle we put him in, so we try to play this to our advantage and head out for another long stroller ride at 12:30. You are not enthused, but a mention of ice cream motivates you to buckle in. Twenty minutes in, your playmate does indeed fall asleep. You entertain yourself by counting as high as you can, inventing excellent numbers on your way, like “two-hundred-onety-one” (it comes after 201). At Congress and Riverside, you decide you’d like to walk, and you do, and cover probably a mile under your own power.

You are delightedly sticking your arm into all the holes in the brickwork.
You are delightedly sticking your arm into all the holes in the brickwork.

We are not the only ones who decided Amy’s on South Congress sounded like a good idea on this gorgeous Sunday afternoon, and we can’t actually face a 50-person line. So Dad, sleeping-Paul and Sous head home while you and I explore South Congress’s ice cream options. (Cupcake truck for the win.) We come home, take in an episode of Doc McStuffins, and we grown-ups let our feet recover from our 8-mile day.

The Crowders come over for the afternoon. You and Eleanor don a series of princess dresses and play pretty independently for a couple of hours. A few art installation pieces go up. We serve a fabulous dinner; you eat the corn nuts.

Artists: Annie and Eleanor
Artists: Annie and Eleanor

6:15 arrives, and we are all beat. Dad’s flying to California tonight, so we say goodbye to our friends and install you in front of the television so we can get things cleaned up. You give Dad a big hug goodbye. You recover from the TV being turned off, and we read Going on Bear Hunt. I tell a final bedtime story about Finn and Holly helping Santa deliver presents (moral: team work is good). I move the turtle lamp onto your dresser so you can both see it glow through the night. You fall asleep quickly after your busy day.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 2 months old.

You seem older to me, first of all. Three and a half, surely, not just a hair over 3. Maybe because you’re potty trained and talking in paragraphs and determined to drop your nap. Maybe because with an August birthday, you’ll always need to grow up fast, or because I’m always rounding up ages in my head, like my friend Sejal tells me they do in India, where you’d be, if I’m doing it right, “4 years running.”

But here today, you’re 3 years and 2 months. You summon us at 6:30 to inform us you’ve had an accident, the first in quite a while. We get you sponged off and fresh clothes and sheets, and snuggle you back to bed for another half-hour. You do not in fact sleep, but stay relatively peaceful until the light turns green. We all get ready pretty quickly, into our warm clothes for a long walk in the cool weather. The temperature has dropped 45 degrees since Thursday.

If you're thinking, "wow, that is one kissable forehead," you are RIGHT.
If you’re thinking, “wow, that is one kissable forehead,” you are RIGHT.

We buckle in, get hatted up, and head for the donut shop and then the trail, crossing the Congress bridge and then back south at Pfluger. You hop out of the stroller for a quick hello to the turtles, and we admire the latest progress on the big playground going up at Butler Park. We snag tacos for tradition despite bellies full of donut, and head home. You and Dad represent us at Central Market, and brave the carwash after a flock of birds uses our car for target practice.

Back at home, Annie hands you her bundle of big fall leaves, and you pretend it’s a kite or a wand or a dog on a leash. We trim dead stalks off the front-yard yucca and decide to plant some of its seeds. This turns into an extended dirt-scooping session. Fun.

It’s time to eat again, apparently, and you eat your small lunch and also Annie’s (oranges and cheese). You make awesome lunchtime conversation, like, “Did you know: a dinosaur pooped a PLANET.” I did not know. I promise to nap with you, so you go upstairs and to bed without protest…but do not sleep. We make a go of it for 45 minutes before I give up. You go downstairs and watch some highly-enriching Bubble Guppies with Annie.

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Our nearby playground has finally reopened, and we go. You swing and slide and climb and drink from the water fountain and make me pretend-hamburgers out of wood chips. We stroll home and have some crackers. Annie asks about pumpkin pie, and Dad tells her we can make some if she’ll go to the grocery store. You reject special mom-time and run out to the car to join the trip to a bonkers HEB at prime shopping time. Brave.

Supplies obtained, you scoop sugar and help me and Annie mix the pie filling. Kalia and Riley come over, and you play—in the backyard in the pinon smoke and upstairs in your room, twirling in the dark at a dance party and making shadows on the wall.

You sport a lot of great looks today.
You sport a lot of great looks today.

Salmon, bread, strawberries, and definitely no brussel sprouts for dinner, then a “pop-si-co” for dessert. You can say popsicle, but you and Annie are nicknaming everything these days. It’s late and you are BEAT, so we hustle upstairs and through the bedtime routine. Dad tells the latest installment in his “Treasures of Smaug the Dragon” series (fifth treasure: sapphires). He intercepts you early on your first bed-escape trip, and you loud-cry for a few minutes before zonking out for a solid 12.

a day in your life

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

You consent to work with Dad on your list this morning, and end up mining the closet drawer of hand-me-downs to create a spectacular Halloween outfit. It’s always fun to see you in pants. We add a couple of unnecessary band-aids to your feet to complete the look, and we’re on our way.

At school, we navigate around a pile of kitty litter, soaking up someone’s puked-up breakfast in the entryway. Oh, little kids. We drop Paul in the Owls, and Ms. Jojo makes her usual fuss over you. You burst into the All Stars, ready for action.

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Winnie, June, DaRong, and you, crafting.
Winnie, June, DaRong, and you, crafting.

It’s a typical day, so far as we hear. I collect you at 5, and you and Paul hop around on the stumps for a few minutes before we load up. You request a story on the ride home, as usual, “and it’s a long one.” I deliver Elsa rescuing the Cars characters from a swimming pool, which we’ve been riffing on since we watched Kiki’s Delivery Service last weekend. At home, we gather some giant fallen leaves from the driveway on our way inside, which you turn into a headdress/magic wand. You eat some pasta and apples for dinner, then sit on the front porch for a mango push-up pop. Yum.

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You and Paul are sticky now, and it’s 97 degrees, and we need to water the plants, so, naturally, you both strip naked and we hook up the sprinkler. You dance in the sprinkles while Paul swings in the hammock (and, yikes, presents his tender toddler-flesh to a dozen ravenous mosquitos). We head inside, warm up, and get ready for bed.

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It’s few pages of Richard Scary’s Big Book of something or other, and a Dad-story to close. He tells you installment number 4 of Smaug’s Treasures (rubies, and “economic revitalization,” I hear as I’m leaving the room). You and Paul—mostly Paul—attempt a few post bed-time escapes but return to bed pretty amiably, and by 8:30, we’re probably all asleep.