a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 9 months old.

I climb up into Annie’s bed at 6:40, where the two of you are just waking up. It was a late and active night last night with your new babysitter, 14-year-old Jade. I rub your feet and hear a little bit about it. You consent to pancakes for breakfast and climb down. We make it out the door without too much fuss. It’s ‘bring a toy to school day’ for 1st grade, so of course you bring one, too—the new panda pillow thingy you bought with your allowance. We grab a mulberry on the way and make decent time.


School is school. Mrs. Dunbar is all over the points today, and awards you some for being responsible, on task, listening, using Spanish, and being SO HELPFUL (literally with the all caps). Your most frequent deductions, for the record, are “Too loud” and “Line trouble.” I don’t personally love the point system, but Mrs. Dunbar seems to, and so do you.


I see you again at about 5:15, as Creative Action is winding down and I retrieve you from Mr. Dustin’s classroom. We’re finally able to enter the room at pick-up after a year of masks and distance. It feels remarkable just to walk inside.

I brought the car to expedite our trip home. Aunt Camei and friend Sam are over for dinner, and Dad’s wrestling with a chicken. I consent in the car to an episode of Monster School, so you and Annie start there, squashed together in Dad’s desk chair for 10 minutes, and then you emerge and begin to graze on fruit until dinner is ready.

You find paper I don’t need on the printer and threaten to rip it. I tell you you can because I don’t need it. Predictably, you tear it in half, drop it on the ground, and walk away. I pursue you, to discuss the necessity of putting it in the recycling bin. You do not want to hear this and go through all the stages of grief. Denial: Not my paper, you pick up the paper. Anger: NO, I WON’T DO IT. Bargaining: Okay, I’ll pick up half if you pick up half. Depression: (fingers in your ears) Don’t say anything, I don’t want to hear it. Acceptance (sort of): Fine, I’ll pick up the paper, but I’m never snuggling you again.

You do in fact pick up the paper, and relent on the snuggling, too, except for one toe, but you tell me it fell off and you grew a new one that’s cool with snuggles. Phew.

It’s time for dinner. At Annie’s suggestion, we play the animal guessing game. You start. It’s a panda. Dad, Sam, and I take turns. You ask great questions, like “does it walk on four legs?” and “does it like hot weather?” We play 7 or 8 rounds—a flamingo, a hippo, a house cat, a hedgehog. Good times.


I fill up the bathtub, and you and Annie climb in. Cam and Sam call out their goodbyes, and you lead Annie through a game of Holly Shiftwell and an omnipotent orange cup, weaving through the Arctic snowdrifts. Clean and dry, you pick a book about gemstones to read, and I climb into Annie’s bed with you to get started. I read a couple pages about why gemstones have different colors, and the mythical properties of jade, beryl, and topaz. Amethyst was used as a charm for sleeping, so I retrieve my moon-shaped amethyst necklast and leave it with you and Annie as a sleeping charm as I say goodnight. An hour later, you holler MOM-MY! and prove its futility.

a day in your life

You wake up at 5:30, afraid you’ve overslept and missed the green light. Still got an hour, Dad informs you. When he sees you again, you’re splayed on the ground on your squishmallow and announcing you might vomit. He feels your forehead and decides it merits a thermometer. You clock in at 102.3. So much for school! I head there with a deeply cranky Annie while you snuggle up with Dad and your Minecraft Master Builder book for the better part of an hour, learning how to make roller coasters and laying plans.

The grocery store seems like a good idea, and the car is charging at the old house, so you and Dad walk there, and you reenter for the first time. It’s been a month exactly since we moved. “I have so many memories in this house,” you say. Working it out: “No one lives here now. We live here now. No one lives here now.”

You decide on a little weeding, which excites you until you rediscover some toys in the shed. So Dad weeds. Then it’s off to the grocery store; you snag some mangos, a baguette, salmon, and breakfast kolaches. Back home, it’s time to build those roller coasters. Dad passes me the kid baton, and you give me a demonstration and then embark on a long journey through your realm while I interview someone for a job. It ends in sadness, unfortunately, as get so far from your home you can’t find it again. I set you up in our bed, and you move onto Odd Squad.


When you burn out on screens, we pursue other projects. You scratch 100% of the black off some rainbow scratch paper while I discuss the PMBOK with some of my staff. Your fever is basically gone, and I’m done with mandatory meetings. What else can we get up to? You wrap little gifts for your best school friends, River and Emmanuel, and also one for Willa, who turns 6 on Friday. And also two for you, because by golly Annie just had a birthday and isn’t it your turn already? We put yours on the high shelf to save for August.


We explore the backyard a bit and harvest a bamboo shoot that’s rocketing from from the ground. You peel it to feed your panda collection. We all walk to school to liberate Annie early, and you entertain Dad and I with nonsense trivia, delivered with total confidence. “3-D shapes have six dimensions. Earthquakes are the reason for tar. 100 times 100 is 10 billion.”


You’re flagging by the time we get home, in the 90-degree heat and sun, but perk up for more Minecraft once Annie finishes her homework. She enters your shared world, and you two spend 45 minutes searching for each other, lighting beacons and setting up trails of beds to try to find each other. It doesn’t work. Dad resets the world so you can start again together. You almost immediately fly away from your island. Annie kicks you.

Dinner time! You eat the strawberries off your plate and ask to be excused to start your bath. Sure. After a soak, you get dressed, and we snuggle on the couch and chat for half an hour. It’s awfully nice. “How do you feel?” I ask. “Awesome,” you say.


It’s just 6:45, but you’re rubbing your eyes, so I suggest we sneak off to your room and read books. I read a couple short ones at your request, and a story at Annie’s, and at 7:05 I’m backing out of the room. You sleep well.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 7 months old.

You get right up and at ’em, bustling into our bedroom and requesting jewelry for a treasure box/dragon’s hoard you’re working on. “I don’t like Minecraft anymore,” you announce. “Actually, I want to play Minecraft right now.” Okay, buddy. Breakfast first. Chocolate pancakes? Sure.

Once you’re fed and watered, we go ahead and authorize Minecraft so we can concentrate on packing for stage 1 of our house move. You start world-building on the couch. “Oh hi, Granddad,” when he arrives, “Want to watch?”

at work on your treasure chest/breakfast
at work on your treasure chest
at work on your lava house
at work on your lava house

I take you and Annie to gymnastics, and you get some wiggles out, tipping over and hamming it up during the stretches. I watch you walk the high beam three times in a row.


We drive through El Tacorrido for tacos (bean and cheese for you, naturally), and head to the new house. The grown-ups pack and carry and unpack while you eat and play on your tablet until its battery runs out.

Ready to play in the real world, you and Annie set up a store in your room and sell toys for two-finity kajillion dollars. Mardi Gras coins accepted. Your own customers satisfied, you volunteer for a Costco trip with Dad to stock our fridge with the essentials (i.e. ALL the berries). Dad calls halfway through the trip to discuss a special present he’s considering, and we agree it’s appropriate for our first night in the new house: giant Squishmallows. You select a dog, whose given name Gris you pronounce in Spanish and then replace with “Paul,” and later “Gruff.” He is enormous.



Back dare-I-say home, you unload, eat half a dozen oranges and animal crackers, and snuggle into your Squishmallows to watch some Odd Squad while the moving continues around you. You take a brief break for dinner (mac and cheese) and wrap up the day with more Minecraft.

It’s bedtime, and we’re sleeping in the new house for the first time. Dad and Granddad have brought over the mattresses from your beds, and Annie has made them up nicely with all the right blankets and lovies. I lie down on the twin mattress that came with the house and read you The Jungle Book and Gertrude McFuzz, and Dad tags in for more Dr. Seuss. “Oh my goodness!” you exclaim at the picture of Gertrude’s tail feathers.


Annie arranges fairy lights “like stars” and we turn the room lights all the way off. You pop out for a quick potty visit, but all is quiet by 8. Did we just move? Yes we did.

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.


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 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’


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

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


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.



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.



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

You’re up and playing with Annie around 6, and spying down from the top of the stairs to catch a glimpse of Dad, just back from a few-days trip. At 6:35, you begin your chorus, to the tune of our old lullaby: “The light turned green, and it’s time to wake up! The light turned green, and…” I help you get dressed and brushed, and you charge downstairs for a happy/silly reunion with beloved Dad. He feeds you, and I retrieve your photocopies of Annie’s math homework so you can add up coin values along with her.


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You clown your way to school in the chilly morning, give us both a hug, and head off for your day. It’s a good one. It’s a classmate’s birthday (Camilla) and also World Kindness Day, so thats’ gotta be good. But the best thing ever is: you are the very happy recipient of the THUNDERBIRD PRIDE AWARD, a student-of-the-week type recognition for two kids per class, for “doing great all week and trying hard.” It could not have gone to a prouder recipient. Your teacher Mrs. Dunbar sent me a message a few days ago saying she should have given it to you weeks ago, but it had been “such a good motivator for other friends.” You bound out of Creative Action and present it to us. (“Can we fix the spelling of his last name?” asks Dad.)


We head home, lined up in formation according to your directions. When you give us the thumbs up signal, we’re to run. We look super, super cool.

It’s Lego Batman for movie night, which you resist strongly until we turn it on and it is awesome. We pause for a perfectly roasted chicken and potatoes, then it’s back to bat business.


Dad reads you a few pages of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which we rather hope you lose interest in before it gets too grim (fat chance). He wishes you goodnight with encouragement to rest up for a fun weekend.

a day in your life

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

You wake up fully clothed, brush your teeth, and slither downstairs to a breakfast of fruit and yogurt. It’s dark and drizzly, and you’re happy to carry a flashlight to school, thrilled with the power of illuminating dark and spooky objects, like tree branches. You spot a snail gliding across our first small bridge, and we all bend over to admire its delicate shell.


Dad walks you to the school door, and we say goodbye. You have, I don’t know, a day at school. At our parent-teacher conference yesterday, Mrs. Dunbar told me you and Eric James are her “math boys.” He changes the date on the chart every morning, and your job is to move the counter to show how many days you have all been in kindergarten. You called her over recently to show her how you’d written the number 452, which doesn’t sound like all that much, but I happen to know at this precise moment in my life that reading/writing numbers over 120 is a second-grade skill. She described herself as “blown away.” You have a joy for learning that delights her, and are often the only one enthusiastically engaged when she’s explaining a new concept. You also, ahem, have trouble sitting still on the carpet.

Anyway, you have a day, and tromp home after Creative Action with Dad and Annie. I’ve just put dinner on the table, and you go quiet as you sit down and devour the fruit. We vote as a family to approve your motion to switch a dessert day from Fridays to Tuesdays. Motion passes. You make sweet boba tea for your first Tuesday dessert, and do not like it.



We go to the front yard to build a house for Little Doggy with our big wood blocks and tape. I think it’s our best one yet. The mosquitos drive us inside, and you hover near Annie completing her subtraction worksheet. I lure you upstairs with the promise of together time, and we draw pictures at your desk until it’s time for your bath. We put conditioner in your dry hair, and you make a tremendous number of silly noises.



Clean and dry, you get back to work, making your own darn math worksheet! You head up to Annie’s bed with supplies to continue crafting while Dad reads the beginning of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. He says goodnight, and you keep drawing until an altercation with Annie requires our intervention at about eight. The feelings, OH, the feelings. We get you set up back in your bed, and you blink right out.

a day in your life

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

You’re up at 5:45, chatting with Annie and playing, but it’s an hour before you trot out of your room, sing-songing “The light turned green!” You’ve built a tent in the middle of the room with your bed-things, and are interested in flashlights for your camping trip. I deliver them and back out, and you play for another 20 minutes or so.


Ready to come downstair, you scramble into your clothes and give your teeth a cursory brush. You and Annie settle on chocolate chip pancakes as your request for breakfast. I cook while you swing outside, to the tune of Believer and Roar. After breakfast, you assist in construction of a playground in the backyard, dragging all the toys out from under the house and setting them up around the deck. The fun was in the building, though, apparently, because as soon as that’s done, Annie suggests you head back into the house to play Harry Potter, and that’s what you do.

Later in the morning, you’re assembling your slot racing track, and when Dad can’t handle you getting ONE MORE TOY out without putting anything away, he takes you to Costco. You there acquire more things, but they’re mostly edible, so.

Lunch is some quite tasty dumplings from the aforementioned Costco (you prefer the “skin” to the interior), and eventually we make it back out to that rad backyard playground. You race all your cars down the slide, climb up the railing, make an enormous mess eating a smoothie, and play elaborate games with Annie, featuring small plastic figurines in the splashpad.

At 3, we roll over to Shae’s house, and Player 3 enters the game. You’re eager to reacquaint yourself with all of his toys and spaces, and play and fight and reconcile with him with great passion. You even enjoy baby Asher now and then.

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We head home at 6:30, and you work in some time with Dreambox (your favorite math learning game) on your school tablet before bed. After a few climbing laps around the beds and a nonsense guessing game with me (“Seven, six…what number?” “Five?” “NO, TWENTY-THREE.”), you head on up so Dad can read the second half of Fantastic Mr. Fox. He says goodnight at 7:35. Thanks to your early morning, you’re quick to sleep.


a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 11 months old.

You pop out of bed in your new race car PJs, motivated to get downstairs but unwilling to shed your awesome new outfit. We compromise by letting you keep the shirt on. This breakthrough allows us to get downstairs and begin arguing about breakfast. Chocolate pancakes, no, but mini-waffles with one chocolate chip melted between them? Okay, fine.
We pack a hodgepodge lunch of tortellini and goldfish crackers and a banana and cherries and a little dried fruit bar and—shoot we need some fat and protein—okay, a wheel of cheese. Then it’s vitamins, and you’re off to the car. Annie brings you a puppy lovey, which thrills you. Dad takes you to school, by way of our library branch, to return an overdue book. Annie’s unicorn pushes the book through the return slot.

At Colibri, you tromp out of the car and into your school. We hear stories of your day that include various alliances and assaults (Shae and Archer are on your team, not Annie’s. Eleanor—who’s been in California for a week, for the record—hit you in the face with a suitcase.) Dad picks you up again at 5. You’re in your shark swimsuit, with your shirt backwards, and tearing around through the sprinklers, having a blast. It’s pulling teeth to get you to bring your stuff out from school, but he nets a pile of shoes and gear. You and Annie both refuse to carry any of your things into the house. Your dad is not pleased.

You scarf down apples and sausage slices for dinner, then join your dad for half an hour of Ratchet and Clank before bed. We head upstairs, where you elect to take a bath. You and Annie have a surge of renewed interest in bath toys, probably because I just put them all away, so we get them back out, and you play a long game of making and serving happy meals. Fish stew in a bucket, with breadsticks made of bath crayons. The toy is a spitting cat. Dad and I pretend to slurp it down.

Costco has delivered some basics this evening, and Dad impulse-bought a new Dog Man book. I read you the cast of characters, then pass it to him for the main action line. You sit in his lap and do your best not to interrupt. Time to get in bed, and he asks you sternly whether there is ANYTHING ELSE YOU NEED because GETTING OUT OF BED IS NOT OKAY. You both decide there certainly IS more you need and pack up some drawing supplies and lovies for a long night. When you’re securely in bed, he reads a few pages of Harry Potter 3. The chapter books are beginning to engage you more; you listen more attentively and do less solo play and interrupting during the readings than a few months ago.

There’s a little post bedtime drama when Annie has to poop but is too afraid to use the bathroom by herself, so you summon us with yelling, and Dad yells right back. Hoo. Monday.

I forgot to take any pictures today, but here you are the next morning, inked up and ready for action.
I forgot to take any pictures today, but here you are the next morning, inked up and ready for action.