tell me a story

I’m starting a log of the hilarious (?) story requests I receive from Annie and Paul (but mostly Annie), for their entertainment and sensemaking, and you tell me when to call the child psychologist.

  • Tell me a story about when Dory got stung by jellyfish.
  • Tell me a story about when Elsa killed a pig and cooked it for her family.
  • Tell me a story about Bambi, when the hunters shot his mother and she died.
  • Tell me a BRAND NEW story, and it has to be a LONG story. You can decide what it’s about.
  • Tell me a story about Elsa when Elsa was a gnat and a spider got her.
  • Tell me a story about when Elsa put her monster truck in the bath.
  • Tell me a story about when Holly Shiftwell DIED.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years and 10 months old.

I’m washing my face in the shower when I hear knocking noises at roughly knee level. I open my eyes and see you and Annie gleefully waving good morning. What do you know—the light turned green! It’s 7:05. Admittedly an odd time to set an alarm for, but it lets us shoot for 7 with a grace period, which obviously we use.

Actually I should back up: we first saw you today at 5:45 am, when you appeared at the foot of our bed to tell us blythely that you had tinkled on your pillowcase, and needed a new one. Annie had been dealing with some intestinal distress through the night and had put herself on the potty; you tagged along with your own important news. I changed your pillowcase, and you both went back to bed.


Forward again to 7:06, you’re wallowing on the floor with your sister and saying hello to your dad, who arrived home in the wee hours from a California trip. We tag-team getting you through your morning tasks. You put up some fuss but make it down for waffles and whatnot. Dad gets you buckled into the car and fishes out a blueberry-flavored vitamin. (Or is it vitanim? You two have mispronounced it for so many years it’s hard for me to remember.)

I drive you to school, narrating a Brand New Story about, oh what was it? A kid had a dream about climbing a rainbow, and then jumped around in the clouds. Bambi made an appearance. I was freestyling. You have lots of ideas to offer about plot twists, and I remind you and Annie that we say YES to all story ideas. YES AND. You and Annie crow about everything you see in safety-vest green or taxi-cab yellow. “THE COLOR OF DAD’S CAR!” “THE COLOR OF A TAXI!” “Where??” “We passed it.”


Annie’s tummy is rumbling in a bad way, so we hustle into the school and head for the Owls first. Ms. Jolene reminds you that you will be an Owl soon, and you hide behind my legs. We say goodbye to Annie and make for the Pandas. You cling to me through our goodbyes but consent to sit down for second-breakfast, and you’re waving to me cheerfully by the time I leave.

According to your teachers’ report, you engage in “footprint art,” read a Llama Llama book, and—my favorite—care for your baby dolls during circle time. Ms. Bertha has to remind you a few times to play safely with your trucks. You do all your peeing in the potty.


I see you again at 4:45, with Charly in tow. It’s Wednesday, and she is taking over from Shanna for our Adult Liberation Night, so I am walking her through the pick-up process. You run to me with your pink playground face, and we gather your things and get the report as Ms. Bertha hands you a graham cracker to go. Charly and I strap you into her car, and I say goodbye as you dig into an overdue Easter present from her sweet mom.

At home, you and Annie have some conflict over our limited supply of frozen corndogs and chicken nuggets, and you end up with a perfect division of each. Plus two peaches. You both work on decorating your playhouses with very permanent markers. You poop in the potty and earn a round of jelly beans for the family.

Bedtime goes okay although forensic evidence suggests you neither took a bath nor brushed your teeth. Life goes on. At 10pm, here you are:


a day in your life

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

baby turtle, mama turtle


Paul initiated a delightful fantasy world a month or so ago, in which he is a baby turtle, and I am a mama turtle, and gradually we have grown our family to include a daddy turtle and a sister mermaid, too. He emerges from his room every morning with his blanket (turtle shell) over his head, and snuggles down in my lap while I coo turtle noises at him, and sometimes Annie brings her pillow in a case and lies beside us and shoves her legs inside to make her mermaid tail. And sometimes Paul says to me in a sweet Paul voice, “I love you, Mama Turtle,” and I think my life can’t get any better.

jelly beans for all

A few weeks into potty training, Paul is definitely on the right trajectory. Poops were tough at first, but yesterday saw two successful scores, and we got a report of another one at school today. PHEW. I have had about enough of scraping feces out of butt cracks, I tell you what.

Last night we had a small party for Shanna to celebrate her last date-night with us before she leaves for a job teaching kindergarten. During the festivities, Paul ran up to me clutching his butt and saying breathlessly, “OH! I have to go potty!” and we hustled right in there and made good. He was rightfully proud and burst out announcing to the living room crowd, “I POOPED IN THE POTTY!” and the room full of toddler-parents and preschool teachers cheered. Positive reinforcement better even than a jelly bean.