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 Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 and a half years old.

We stagger into your half-birthday Saturday after a rough night with a stomach bug. You started puking up blueberries at 9pm, and had bouts until 2:30, when you said in your sweet exhausted voice, “The good thing is: my covid test was negative.” A comfort to us all. At 7:30, you begin to stir in your sleeping bag on top of Annie’s bare mattress, and start the day with a soapy bath and a carton of chocolate milk.

Us, two hours before you start vomiting. Let's just say I'm staying hydrated in preparation...
Us, two hours before you start vomiting. Cool cool cool.

We continue our campaign to swab everything with bleach wipes, and Dad mixes up cupcakes under your supervision. Annie declares her intention to give you a present for your half-birthday, and she and I pick through the bags of soft things still in prolonged lice quarantine in the hatch of my car to find her chosen gift. It’s a purse that turns into a cradle, crocheted by my great-aunt 30+ years ago and one of Annie’s favorite lovey-carriers. And now it is yours! A cozy nest for your new collection of bizarre figurines handed down from cousin Miles. Annie seeds it with one named “Blue Eyeball” to give you the idea. You are pleased.

Annie shows you how your new purse works while Blue Eyeball looks on.
Annie shows you how your new purse works while Blue Eyeball looks on.

We decide against gymnastics class, cancel social plans, and suit up for a day of video games on the couch. You wipe down the controller and launch Astro’s Playroom, which you complete, again. “Thanks for all your help, Daddy!” Dad and Annie head to Cruzteca for breakfast tacos and chicken soup; you stick to more chocolate milk.

Your forehead’s hot, so I check your temperature, and get, from various spots on your forehead: 100.4, 101.5, 102, and 104.2. I hate digital thermometers. Anyway, you have a fever. A nap is the thing. You request a pillow fort to sleep in, and curl up while Annie hovers around you, and we make valentines.

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A couple hours later, you rouse and examine our work, interested in the chocolate kisses. We each have one. Let’s see, what utterly effortless activity have we not gotten to yet today? Oh yes, TV. Time for some Odd Squad. I beg you to drink something, and you have a few sips of water and half a dozen strawberries. At least the vomiting didn’t put you off them!

You managed half a bean and cheese taco for dinner, and then we head upstairs for an early bedtime. Dad reads Goodnight Moon with nostalgia and then a few pages of Harry Potter, and says goodnight at 7. You sleep well through the night.

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.

allowance

We started giving the kids an allowance this year. I confess it’s mostly to help us quit impulse-buying them junk to bribe them through shopping trips. Now, we can fend off their pleas with Lessons About Fiscal Responsibility! Cool!

The biggest obstacle to the whole enterprise had been our complete inability to keep cash on hand, especially small bills suitable for allowances. We’ve had to keep stealing back and reusing the same $5 for tooth fairy visits. So we decided to do what any sensible parent in 2022 would do: become their online bank.

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I’m sure you can immediately sense the beauty and craftsmanship of this spreadsheet, but let me highlight some of its features, just in case:

  • Their $5 allowances are deposited into three funds: one for saving, one for giving, and one for spending.*
  • Balances are automatically calculated based on the previous week’s totals. All we need to input are withdrawals, which appear in red.
  • Conditional formatting highlights the current week.
  • Calculations into the future allow easy look-ups for when they can afford that super-cool train set they saw at Costco, or their first Dogecoin.
  • When withdrawals are made from the spend fund, the notes field allows us to creepily track every purchase. This helps them become accustomed to the surveillance economy they will inherit.

*We heard about this split on a podcast or something; it sounded cool. Annie has already stated her intention to donate her “give” fund to a Deer Rescue organization.

Who is enjoying this more: Annie in her rad new hat with ears that perk up when she squeezes a pump, or me reading “A Beginner’s Guide to General Ledgers”? It’s really hard to say.

a day in your life

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

You sleep right past the green light after a rough night coughing and sneezing. We covid-tested you yesterday when you came home with sniffles (happily negative). You’re a little groggy this morning, but have no temperature and quickly perk up for a breakfast of sugary cereal—Dad has pulled out the big guns to motivate everyone downstairs.

We make it out the door roughly on time and enjoy a quick walk to school. You do quite a bit of skipping. Dad walks you to the door, and you disappear into the scrum.

I can’t get much out of you regarding your day. When I ask on the way home, you crow that you “ran ten laps around the world” and then were so tired you drank everyone’s water. So, somewhere between that and practicing letter sounds lies the truth. In any event, we see you again at 5:15, shoes on the wrong feet and excited to eat some orange slices.

you reporting on your day; Mrs. Dunbar's take on matters
you reporting on your day running around the world; Mrs. Dunbar’s generous take on matters

Once home, Annie pitches you on building a store up in your room to earn some money. We’ve just introduced allowances, and you are keen to up your balance. You both disappear upstairs while I cook dinner. Creative play, hooray! Tonight is particulary spectacular because it turns out that not only are you entertaining yourselves, you are also tidying up. Dad visits “the restaurant” at your invitation and discovers the clean room: it is perhaps the best moment of his life to date.

You announce tonight's menu: hamburgers, pizza, ice cream.
You announce tonight’s menu: hamburgers, pizza, ice cream

After a few rounds of serving up drawings of food in exchange for pocket change, you and Annie come down for real dinner. It’s less successful. Of the meal I serve, you eat five cherry tomatoes and ask to be dismissed for dessert.

There’s time for a brief ukelele collaboration and ten minutes of video games with Dad before bath time. You and Annie have very recently decided that the age of kid baths is over, and you shower now, separately. Oh, my little babies. You hop into yours, and when I stroll by, are happily chanting, “Scrubbin ma butt…scrubbin ma butt.”

I'm calling this one 'Little Brothers'
I’m calling this one ‘Little Brothers’

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When I come by again for Annie’s toothbrush, you and Dad are snuggling on the floor. This segues into reading Dog Man, and before we know it, goodnight! Thanks for the great day, kiddo.

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

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You’re up before dawn and tumble into our room as soon as the light turns green, singing the inverted lullaby and brandishing Little Doggy. It’s Sunday, and we’re awake but still in bed, and for the first time in a while, you and Annie crawl in.

We head down for breakfast, and Dad makes some outstanding waffles with chocolate chips. Fed, you move onto race car driving while I head out for a run, and then it’s some tablet games while Dad does his. At 10, you’re suiting up enthusiastically for a quick bike ride to the new house, where Miles, Lyla, and Lisa are meeting us for their first tour. You’re most excited to show them the treehouse and “the secret area,” the kids-only loft behind the chimney. We’re there in no time. You and Annie patrol the perimeter of the front yard, standing watch for their arrival.

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The next hour is a whirlwind: you and Miles hammer together a little car kit, explore all your favorite places, and race around the whole house. Your cousins present you with presents, and you receive a toy car, a plus-plus block set, a bouncing moon ball, and a tiny Ron Weasley. The generosity! We say goodbye, close up the house, and head for lunch downtown.

We park at the Trader Joe’s and walk the width of west downtown to Fareground, where you demolish a couple bean and cheese tacos and some baguette, to the song stylings of a pleasant, jazzy cover band. You move onto swinging around posts and driving your new car across the plaza. When we’ve had enough, we descend to the trail, and you balance on every side wall you can find as we cover the half-mile west. We tunnel under Cesar Chavez and emerge at the library, cross the street to Seaholm and dive into Trader Joes snack shopping.

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Many, many desserts are acquired. We drop the groceries in the back of the car and hang out on the astroturf lawn for a few minutes. Dad shows you how to cartwheel. Poppy arrives with her dad, and you launch into games of freeze tag and goodness knows what else, turning a square of green into your personal playground for another hour. When Annie and Poppy pair off to flirt with some little dogs, you engage me in a game of “who can ___ better?” where ___= cartwheeling, sommersaulting, staring and being quiet and not moving, picking each other up, jumping, standing on one foot, and more.

Five o’clock finds us home, and you settle down with some PBS kids games. An old friend of Dad’s joins us for dinner, and you impress him (for real) with the way you sit at the table with us for dinner and (in your mind) with your lengthy and plentiful burps. We head up to bed, and you’re pretty cooperative, brushing at least your front teeth with flouride toothpaste (unicorn bubblegum sparkle) and climbing up to your own bed for 15 minutes of Harry Potter 4. The Tri-Wizard champions are announced. Oh boy, Harry, some trouble in store!

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.