I was out of town for Paul’s month-day, so Bryan filled in. Thanks, Dad!
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years and 2 months old.
You are cheerful this morning, making faces through the bars of your crib as I approach. “Where’s Dad?” you wonder, as I lift you out, but he’s hot on my heels. We kickstart the documentation with some photos, and visit Annie in her crib. I carry you to the changing table to discover your diaper is dry again. You’ve shown little interest in trying the potty, but you’ve got the right instincts.
On the changing table, you stretch out your ever-longer body and shoo off your father. “No, MOM do it.” I offer you a longhorn pin for your shirt, which you decline. “No, it’s SHARP.” Now firmly in a “no” mood, you also decline pants. We discuss putting them on downstairs. “Carry me like a princess!” you request, and I do. You loll your head back and enjoy the ride. Dad and I swap again, and he gets you panted (under protest) and shod, and loaded up in the car.
You are jolly and talkative on the way to school. It’s Friday, so Dad is driving. You dig happily into your toast cup and ask Annie for an extra piece of hers, which she grants you. In the Pandas class, you have been talking about feelings and identifying your own as you enter each day by velcroing a picture of yourself on a chart. Perplexingly, you select “sad” this morning, but don’t seem deeply committed to the choice. It’s the easiest to reach.
At school you frolic in the pumpkin patch, play with cinnamon playdough, and poop. You nap your standard 2 hours. Your teachers note on your weekly report that you are “practicing using words and gentle hands with friends (smiley face).”
Dad brings you home through slow, ACL traffic. I have composed you a beautiful plate of tortellini, bacon, tomato slices, and a few greens leaves you can interpret as a garnish, dressed with our friends’ private stash of fancy olive oil. Shockingly, given toddlers’ typical response to meals their parents work hard to compose, you eat it.
Spirits remain high, but we give ourselves a break and watch 45 minutes of Coco, a new film adventure for us. It has you on the edge of your seat, and climbing into my arms at every sign of interpersonal conflict.
We begin a countdown clock (“10 more minutes! 5 more minutes!”) and at 7, head upstairs for a bath. You bustle right in and only howl a little when scrubbed. Clean, diapered, and teeth more-or-less brushed, you climb aboard for a full rendition of Fox in Socks, and then the routine begins: it’s dark outside, and it’s time to go to sleep. Annie turns off the lights, and then you turn them back on, and off again. Dad wrestles you into a shirt you first do want, then don’t, then do again, then DEFINITELY DO NOT, but it’s too late. You get pets and hand-holds, and tucked under your blanket that’s already too small. Goodnight, Paul.
At 10:30 or so, you wake up screaming, as you have now and then for the last week. I think you’re having bad dreams. Dad goes in to check on you, and you quiet right down and sink back into sleep.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years and 1 month old.
I open the door and announce happy news: Dad is back! He’s been in California for a couple of days, and he trots in to applause and demands from everyone that HE be the one to pick them up.
He gives you a hug and attends to your diaper while you catch him up on news of what your dog and alligator have been up to. “VUFF VUFF VUFF VUFF,” mainly. You have mercifully failed to notice that we swapped out your original doggy with a significantly less-crusty replacement a few days ago. We’ve got two more in reserve. My goodness do you love that little guy.
We head down for breakfast, and you eat your banana bread and yogurt, then use the yogurt spoon like a paint brush to add some flare to your clothes and body. I sponge you off, and at your request, also wipe your doggy’s face. We head to the car.
On the way to school, you point out important features, “City bus! BLUE city bus!” and chat with Annie. I unbuckle you at school, and you climb out of the car under your own power, then hold my hand as we all cross the street.
You stride into school like you own it and announce, “I a PANDA.” It’s taken about a month, but you’ve adjusted well to your new class. I leave you sitting down with your teacher Ms. Natalie, earnestly explaining to her something about your english muffin.
You have a typical day. It’s wet and cool-ish, so playground time is probably more pleasant than usual. Your 20-minutes of academics involves learning how to care for a baby doll in a circle, which is straight adorable, and talking about yourself and your family. You nap for two good hours, and paint with Q-tips.
Shanna picks you up a little after 4 and brings you home for a tortellini dinner. Afterward, you play outside with your lawn flamingos, and see a big, beautiful rainbow in the half-cloudy sky.
Then it’s upstairs for a long and much-needed bath. Clean and dry, you read a book with Shanna and Annie and head to bed, your doggie clutched in hand.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years old.
You spend your first half hour in crib-to-crib conversation with Annie, who relates an involved tale of needing to go potty. At 7:30, Dad and I enter the scene and swoop you down to a breakfast of blackberries and mini-pancakes. “I’m HUNGary,” you tell us pitifully, as you tuck in.
Dad takes you on a walk, and reports that you talk quite a bit when you’re on your own. Not words he can understand, but still! Words words words.
Back home, you bust into another birthday present, which we’ve been dribbling out over the last three days. This one is a Spiderman-themed set of Duplos. You are particularly excited about the red motorcycle.
We load up into the car and head to Waterloo Icehouse on 360 for a playground brunch with the Crowders and Smid-Saidis. You romp all over the playground like a pro, and track a load of wet sand back to the table. Your blueberry pancakes—yes, more pancakes—must be a little gritty, but you don’t seem to mind.
We drive home through Dad’s childhood neighborhood, and Annie tells jokes to make you laugh (example: “apple pizza” — hahahahaha). You spot the AIRPAINS at Camp Mabry. We get home and settle down for a nap.
We spend the afternoon at home, doing all our favorite things. You bounce on the couch with Annie to the tune of the White Stripes, build with legos, and eventually Dad and I remember your birthday present. Dad assembles your first bike on the floor while the anticipation builds, and you helpfully identify the wheels.
The bike is still a little bit big for you, but something tells me you’ll be tearing around in no time. The “labeebug” helmet you picked out is on its way. We do a little more romping, and I pretend to be a monster and chase you and Annie around the house (video withheld for the preservation of my dignity). You take in a little Finding Dory while I cook dinner.
Our cousins arrive at 5 or so—Lisa, Eric, Miles, and Lyla. They’ve come bearing hand-me-down gifts, the best kind. Eric presents you with beautiful hand-carved cars and trucks, and Miles and Lyla pass down a little green spinner thing that you and Annie have always enjoyed at their house. You and Annie take it for a, well, a spin.
Miles helps you assemble your Duplo kit, and the four of you play together while the adults talk about boring grown-up stuff. Dinner is skirt steak, salad, potatoes, and corn. You eat three cobs of corn and nothing else.
We sing you happy birthday and bring out cupcakes with a candle. You attempt to blow it out; we attempt to instruct you on technique; you misunderstand and put your fingers in the flame. Ouch. Buoyed by frosting, your recovery is swift.
Bedtime looms, and our family says goodbye. We march upstairs for a bath and an accelerated bedtime routine. Acknowledging your age and sophistication, Annie announces that it’s YOUR turn to do the lights. Dad hoists you up to press exciting buttons on the wall. In your crib at last, you certify the presence of MY DOGGY, and all is well. Goodnight, my 2-year-old.
To Paul: this is what happened the day you turned 1 year and 11 months old.
You wake up in your tent in a chilly Denver basement. You’ve got your stuffed dog, though, a warm burrow of blankets, and Annie to talk to through the mesh wall, so you’re a happy camper until I come downstairs to greet you at 7. We’ve stayed the night at an old friend’s house before we fly home from our week in Colorado.
The house is full of exciting toys, which you take full advantage of—pushing, riding, swinging, inflicting minor damage, and trying to follow Annie’s elaborate games of make believe.
By coincidence, our friends Sarah, Bartow, and May live less than a mile from my own first home, where Granddad, Susu, and I lived until I was a little bit younger than you are now. I’ve never been back, so of course we must stroll over there, with a pit stop at Starbucks for a croissant and a little get-out-and-walking for both you and Annie.
We turn off of Memory Lane and head to the playground at a big park near their home. You swing and run and spend some quality time in a tunnel. We head back to the Harris’ for a yogurt pop and goldfish crackers (lunch), then cross our fingers and put you both down for an 11am nap, in hopes you can squeeze in an hour of sleep before we leave for the airport.
At noon, we extract you both, sleeping and groggy, fold up your tents, and buckle you into the car. All goes reasonably smoothly at the airport. You stay in good spirits and manage to work in some romping, climbing over the luggage and chasing Annie around an empty row of airport seats. You are glued to the window for some time, watching the planes taxi in and out, and announcing, “AIRPANE! ONE AIRPANE! DOS AIRPANES!” As Dad is explaining to you that he is taking your dog for a minute because you threw it, and he’ll give it back, but you mustn’t throw it again, we run into the head of the UT Child Development Center. We are pleased to be caught in a moment of at least semi-responsible parenting.
We board the plane. I’ve got to tell you that you are not my favorite fellow traveler at this moment in your life. Nothing holds your attention for more than a few minutes, and you broadcast your fierce feelings and desires at a volume that makes me wonder whether airplane designers intentionally leave the cabins noisy to mitigate the effects of toddler boys. We keep you mostly placated with a stream of snacks, letting you climb all over us, and unlimited tablet time. Your gaming skills are low, but your appreciation for 100 rounds of “Wheels on the Bus” is quite high.
We make it to Austin, haul you out of the airplane, gather our many, many bags and accouterments, and straggle to the car. It’s good to be home, even if it’s 97 degrees.
You think so, too, joyfully reuniting with house and possessions. You eat frozen peas and drink ice water in the kitchen tower for dinner. We sponge you down at your bathroom sink and get you into fresh clothes. You and Annie pick separate Mercy Pig books to read in separate laps; your selection is the one in which Mercy goes to the movies and eats everyone’s popcorn. The lap is mine. Dad and I finish our books almost in unison, and as we start the lullaby, you hop up to turn on the noise machine. You flop happily into your crib, demand a “PAT!” (some tummy rubbing) and “BANKET!” (your blanket on you, even though it’s still 83 degrees inside). The moment we leave the room, you are out like a light.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 1 year and 10 months old.
At 7:30, we are tapping our fingers, waiting for you to wake up. Annie had a fever yesterday, so I worry that you are both terribly ill. At nearly 8, I go on in. You’re awake but peaceful; Annie is asleep and will stay that way until 9:30. (She’s fine though, don’t worry.) Susu and I gather your clothes and a diaper and slip you out of the bedroom to get dressed.
I set you down in front of your breakfast, and you start popping grapes off the stem and cramming them cheerfully into your mouth. We call Dad, who steps out of the Google Zurich office to say hello. He asks you simple questions, which you answer with your characteristic, “Shaah!!” and you make faces at each other while you eat your bagel. Scout relieves you of the second half, and Granddad brings you a replacement, which you accept with good grace. You and Dad say goodbye.
We load up in the car for school. You seem torn between missing Annie (“Annie-ah!”) and relishing the undivided attention. You point out all the trucks and busses triumphantly, and identify “don-ton” as we approach it. At school, you stash your dog in your cubby and march over to table for a big bowl of applesauce, which you shovel in the direction of your mouth with more gusto than precision.
We have no reason to believe it’s other than a normal day at school. Granddad picks you up at 4:30, and you whiz home through light traffic while you jabber at him in full-length sentences he cannot begin to understand.
At home, you join Annie in the tower for a half-banana snack, and play around the house. You pull on your rain boots and do a bit of toy-pushing in the front yard before the 100-degree heat drives you inside. I join you all at 6, and we set the table for a dinner of very tasty Chinese takeout you will eat none of.
Annie is in a fragile place, emotionally, and receiving a scoop of rice on her plate causes a meltdown. When I bring her into my lap, you decide you need to be there, too, bouncing in your chair and demanding, “Mommy-ah! MOMMY-AH!” I end up with you both in my lap, wailing in each ear.
We sort it out somehow, but you’re very quickly “all done!” with dinner, and sort through your backpack (“ma backpack!”) and Annie’s (“Annie backpack!”) while the rest of us finish.
We adjourn to the living room and zoom a truck back and forth between us while you squeal in delight. You bring me a selection of books to read, but veto most by the time you get to my lap. “Not dees book!” Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is the only one we get through.
You poop. I say, “Let’s go take care of this,” and you walk straight to the diaper corner and lie down on the ground for me. Thanks, Paul.
We head outside to express-trash that diaper, then stop to water the peach trees and the bushes. I hold you on my hip and we smell the falling water.
At 7:10 we head upstairs for a bath, and you and Annie turn it blue with bath dye, which you also taste test. Granddad gets you dry and diapered, and then you and Annie disintegrate in tandem. We have left your most special friend dog at school—not cool. I do our best to navigate us through our routine, but it’s clear you two are escalating your despair to compete for my attention, so I end up beating a hasty retreat as you both scream. Two minutes later, total silence.
Hasta la vista, babies.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 21 months old.
You signal your readiness for pick-up, so we hoist you out of your crib, help you into your outfit, and head downstairs for banana, yogurt, and toast. You eat with purpose, then turn to me: “ALL DONE!” After a quick napkin swipe of your sticky banana hands, you head to the couch to look out the window and do a little light bouncing.
We make our way into the stroller and head out for a walk. It’s 75 degrees at 8am, and 90% humidity. Summer is coming. We do our usual Saturday circuit: risk our lives jaywalking across Riverside (though today we see them cutting the curb for our new crosswalk!), about a mile on the boardwalk and trail, a little off-leash time for Sous, and then a stroll through the park for y’all.
You feed toast crusts to the turtles and lie on your tummy to watch them eat. It’s a busy day on the pond. The sun is bright, the birds are chirping, and the grass and leaves are brightest green, in their full glory. You and Annie range around the park, and you only check in once or twice for some emotional support when you take a tumble or have your will denied.
We head up to El Mercado to meet our friends for brunch. You play hard on the playground, scoop a half-teaspoon of medium-spicy salsa into your mouth without flinching, and put away your weight in pancakes, bacon, and refried beans.
While Annie and I go to take in some theater, you head home with Dad and Doug, plus Riley in the second stroller seat. You play together with toys and boss Riley around until the families reunite and you go down for a late nap at 1.
Back up at 3ish, you get some solo parent attention as Annie naps on. You bring half a dozen books to read in my lap, then graduate to throwing the bouncy ball.
We get Sous to fetch the tennis ball when you throw it a few times, which delights you. You decide to go outside. “OWSHY! SHOES ON!” Yes, shoes, also, pants, also, hey, new diaper. For the record, you have two real, solid, human turds come out of you today, a major triumph after 21 months of sludge. Keep it up, kiddo.
Annie wakes at last, and she and Dad head to the grocery store while you and I stay at home. Your grief for the two of them—you wander around the yard, calling their names balefully—makes it clear I am third place in your heart, but you console yourself with an apple and milk on the front porch, and then by ringing the doorbell 40 times. Sous doesn’t mind so much, but our home automation system buzzes Dad’s phone every time, so eventually he calls us from the dairy aisle to make sure everything’s okay.
Headed back in, you finally realize our fears and close your hand in the front door, as I’m lunging toward it, yelling to be careful. The damage is minor, but boy it hurts. You fall into my arms, and I hold you and sing and pat your back until you’ve recovered enough to request some music to feel better. Kind of Blue chills us out. A few minutes of Totoro are also called for.
Annie and Dad arrive home, and you dive into dinner. Actually, I’m not sure what you eat other than dried cranberries picked out of a salad, and blueberry yogurt, but anyway, you do it with gusto. You and Annie maraud around a bit while Dad and I finish eating, and then we drag everyone through a shower because we. are. filthy.
You finish up the movie with Annie while I put away laundry and do a heavy audit of the clothes in your drawer, and Dad talks to his parents, looping you into the conversation now and then. At 7:20, we’re back in your room, dressed for bed and reading Mercy Pig. You require that we linger on the pictures of the cars, which you play at counting (“Wo-on, two-oo. Two!”), and on the firetruck (“Wee-oh-wee-oh!”)
Fan button pushed, stuffed dog secured, and police-car socks on, you’re a happy camper and ready to go to sleep. Just as soon as you and Annie finish kicking the wall.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 20 months old.
We hear you starting to talk with Annie, and roll into your room at 7:20. You’re happy to see us, bounce up and raise your window shade to see what kind of day it’s going to be.
You’re less excited to get dressed, preferring instead to get a book to read. (“BooKh-Kh,” you say, hitting that terminal consonant twice, with vigorous back-of-the-throat CCHHH that would have served you well as a native German speaker.) Dad talks you into some pants and shoes, and eventually you get into the spirit.
Breakfast is a typical yogurt, banana, and toast. You do a decent job of keeping the yogurt off your shirt, and chew on a toothbrush before we head out the door. On the way to school, you gleefully point out the trucks (SHRUCK-CK!) and busses (BUTS!).
We walk into school—you walk yourself now more often than I carry you—and you sit right down at the table in the Sea Turtles. As I sign you in, you get back up to give Annie a hug. Hearts melt.
Your day is a mystery. I arrive back at school too late for a report from your teachers. Clearly you took a tumble on the playground, though, because your knee is grubby and your face is a little scraped. When I open the door to the class, you’re the last one there, and you run joyfully into my arms.
You and Annie visit Ms. Stephanie for to-go snack (three saltines), do a little playing in the stump garden outside the school, and then climb into the car through the front seat, so you can press the button that starts the electric system. (I don’t know why we let you start doing this—it’s a problem.) Strapped into your carseat at last, you find the crusts of your morning toast, and get back to eating it. (MAH TUTS!) En route, you pull off your shoes and socks, and play a little of the game where you call my name and I call yours. (Ma! Paul! Ma! Paul! Mamamamamama. Paul paul paul paul paul.)
You march through the door at home and make a beeline for the milk (probably all that stale toast). “Mah NULK!” You do a pretty credible job with a regular cup now, when you’re not reaching your whole fist into it or accidently elbowing it across the table. For dinner, you eat all the berries off your plate and spend the rest of our time together crying for more. We decline to provide them. You eat nothing else.
You push the stroller and shopping cart around the house while your sister spends some minutes on the time-out step for failures in compliance. (You may also appreciate this unusual view through the walls under our stairs. We’re having some work done.)
It’s time to wind down, so we head upstairs, wash face and hands, and pick out some books.
We don’t so much read Goodnight Moon as gleefully hunt for the mouse on every page. “DEEES!” you crow, which I interpret as either “There he is!” and/or “Squeak!”
It’s after 7, so we start singing the song. I carry you to the light switches where you perform your task: turning the fan switch off and on again. I lay you in your crib, and you hold your dog up to me, “DOCK,” for a kiss. As I’m tucking Annie in, you pop back up holding your blanket, apparently asking to get tucked in, too—a first. I do, and you push your blanket right off and return to cuddling with your dog and sucking your thumb.
Night night, my Paul.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 19 months old.
The time changed yesterday, so you sleep peacefully until 8. Dad gets you diapered and dressed, and we head down for breakfast. It’s Monday, but a professional-development day for your teachers, so we’re all home together for a bonus long weekend.
When I come downstairs with a book to read, you say clear as day, “My Mercy book!” and Dad and I goggle at each other. Your language skills are exploding—only yesterday did we first hear you say “book” with the K sound.
We buckle into the stroller for a walk. The weather is chilly but gorgeous, and SXSW is in full swing. We share the bridge with folks in badges walking to downtown, but the trail is abandoned as all the locals take cover.
We make a loop down to the river and stroll back through the park as usual. You are very interested in looking for turtles and—a recent addition—the family of Nutria.
We roll to Mellizos for breakfast tacos, and you eat your eggs by the handful. The weather is so nice we tack on a playground visit. I help you climb the ladder, which delights you, and you and Annie chase each other down the slide and back around, again and again and again.
Swings and time on the stone turtle cap our visit, and we head home via the creek tunnel, where you yell and poke sticks into the water. Back at home, we have a quick snack of berries and milk. I give you an open cup, and you blow bubbles in it. Classic.
You and Annie jump and squeal in your cribs for a solid hour before going to sleep, and Dad comes in to admonish you and stays to change a horrific diaper.
At 2, you’re awake. I release you and Annie from your
crates cribs, and we head downstairs to set up a picnic in the perfect afternoon sunshine. We eat pears and crackers in the front yard, and you push the toy lawnmower and stroller around. Dad returns from the grocery store and joins us. We migrate into recliners and lounge with books and magazines. You page through a Mercy book quietly, with undivided attention. I tell your dad I always imagined our whole family reading together but didn’t picture it happening so soon.
You and Annie are obsessed with each other and carefully monitor what the other is doing in case it involves a scarce resource you need to demand for yourself. Your parents grow weary enforcing turn-taking.
George joins us for a lounge, and an hour later, so do Kalia, Doug, Eleanor, and Riley. You run around with Annie and Eleanor, nearly independent of adult supervision. A feast of grilled meats and veggies appears; you eat half a hot dog bun and resume your romp.
Twenty minutes of Totoro calm us all; then we say goodbye to our friends and head upstairs for a jungle bath. It’s not pleasant for anyone, but we get ‘er done and read a final Mercy book to cross the finish line. At 7:30, you’re snug in bed, pooped out, and headed for sleep. Phew.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 18 months old.
It’s an unusually quiet morning—you and Annie are typically yodeling by 7. Today, we head in at 7:35 to find you fast asleep in child’s pose, butt raised high. I pat you on the back, and you turn over, see us, and smile. You stand right up and present yourself to Dad to be lifted up.
Changed and dressed, you listen to me read another fabulous Mercy the Pig book while we get Annie in the same state. Then it’s a hustle through the freezing air to Dad’s warm car, where he’s loaded a cup full of banana, cheese, and toast, with a bonus chewable vitamin at the bottom. Win.
It’s a normal day. You sit down to a second breakfast with Shanna in the Sea Turtles. You nap. You play. You eat all the fruit within reach. At 5:30, Annie and I roll in to pick you up. She hands you a snack for the road—three saltines—and you call for your sweater.
You identify all the pick-up trucks we pass on the way home: “SHRUHH??” You’re quite the enthusiast these days. For variety, we blow raspberries at each other, and you peruse Goodnight Moon, still a favorite. “Dah boo?” (The book. I think. “Boo” also means cow and moon.)
At 6, we’re walking in the house for dinner by Dad. There’s a lot to like: orange slices, cherry tomatoes, and a banana I’ve promised you and your sister to maintain peace in the car. You decline the lasagna until I play the game we’ve just developed and I’m not sure how I feel about. (I call it “baby bird”: I offer you food on a fork. You shake your head no. I put it in my mouth. You yell in demand. I remove it from my mouth, offer it to you again, and you eat it enthusiastically. I could also call it “poison tester.”) Anyway, you end up eating your lasagna.
No episode of lasagna ends without a good bath! Dad gets you in there and clean. You play cheerfully for a few minutes, then announce your readiness for pick-up. Dad towels you dry, and you march your naked butt over to me with a book to read. Determined to finish the job, Dad scoops you up and gets you diapered and shirted, and you march around while we hang a coat rack on your wall. I help you through a few shoe changes, just for fun.
We gather coats and hats to try out the new rack. You have serious qualms about hanging your beloved bear hat in a new location. I take you back downstairs to return it to its accustomed spot, but after some processing, you make your peace with its new home.
You and Annie squeeze into my lap for I Stink and, sweet Jesus, Mercy Pig again. You’re awfully cuddly, though, so I don’t really mind.
Dad scoops you up as the lullaby begins, and zips you into your sleep sack. “Love you love you love you,” he says, and scoots out the door. I give you a little tummy rub and follow. Night night, Mr. Paul!