a day in your life

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

You and Annie thunder into our room when the light turns green and climb onto the bed, happy to find Dad and I in place after his California trip and your night with Charly. You make it through the morning routine with him, and more or less no tears.

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It’s Cheerios and milk for breakfast, with one piece of “grownup cereal” (frosted mini-wheats) stuck in the center, its dome of hardened sugar a special prize. After breakfast, you help Dad put together his new battery-powered lawn mower—the kind of really exciting Christmas present grown-ups get for themselves.

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It’s chilly outside, so we hustle to the car and drive to school. You escort Annie into her class, and we head for the Owls, where the expectation of jelly on english muffins eases the pain of separation.

It’s a normal day, as far as I know, with spaghetti and pears for lunch, and who knows, maybe even a nap. I find you at 4:45 engaged in your current favorite activity: running around on the playground turf with Fletcher and Silas. Fletcher is chasing you and tackling you. You tell me it’s “tag.” Mmhmm.

"Mom, do NOT embarrass me in front of my friends."
“Mom, do NOT embarrass me in front of my friends.”

The very last thing in the world you want to do is go home. I have to carry you off the playground and all the way to the car. New construction work around your school (building the new Moody Center) has closed roads and led to disastrous traffic. So it’s a long journey home. We make the best of the time, addressing such questions as:

“What are the soldiers doing in that statue with the person with wings?”

“What are ‘peace’ and ‘freedom’?”

“What makes a boat sink?”

And of course listening to Frozen 2. Oh my goodness, yes.

Home at last, we eat a quick dinner, and you and Annie have some playtime. You make up the kitchen tower into bunk beds, complete with your blankets and pillows, and do a little ukelele practice, centered on pressing buttons on the tuner. I show you how to play a C chord. You take a shower in our bathroom and snuggle into Dad’s lap for a book.

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Dad tells the bedtime story—the latest in his Smaug the Dragon series—and reminds you to keep your body in bed. And you do! Nice work, buddy.

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 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 Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 1 month old.

You are still testing the stay-in-bed limits, and Dad fields a wee-hours potty request. You have correctly identified potty needs as the trump card. When the light turns green, you charge into our bathroom as I’m getting out of the shower, and our day officially begins. Somehow you both end up swaddled like babies in your old muslins. It’s hard to explain.

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We make it downstairs for breakfast—more banana muffins you helped bake on Sunday, and fruit, and a bonus bowl of cold oatmeal. You strut to the car carrying the vitamins, and Dad buckles you in. We talk and tell stories and ask questions all the way to school. Your classroom was temporarily relocated yesterday after a burst pipe rendered the floor unsafe, so we drop you in the ex-Sea-Turtles class right by the entrance. The Owls have all moved in, and you seem happy to be back there. There’s a library loft! We have a hug, and you insist on kissing both my cheeks, and then my legs. Yep.

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Other than the new classroom, it’s a typical day at school. Lunch—I laugh now to notice since I just served the exact same thing for dinner—is spinach quiche. You nap. The afternoon on the playground must have been fun, because your feet are FILTHY when you come home. Dad finds you at 5, working enthusiastically on some dot art. He lets you hop on the stumps by the door, and then you head home.

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You must have missed your last potty trip because you have an enormous accident in the car on the way home. Dad strips down the carseat and tries to mop your pee out of the perforated leather while I sponge off your legs and butt. Mmmm, dinner time! Unsurprisingly to me now, you are not very enthusiastic about the spinach quiche on your plate, but you scarf your strawberries and eat black beans by the handful. “What’s in this quiche?” you ask, and then answer yourself, “Eggs and cheese and BOOTY.”

After you handle every piece of pepperoni on the serving dish, Dad works in a pro-parenting lesson on not touching food and silverware you aren’t going to use. You end up with three spoons, somehow. You relish our full attention as Annie lies down on the couch—she spiked a fever this morning and has been home and pitiful all afternoon.

You are extremely dirty. I convince you to go upstairs for a bath, and you convince me to crawl like a turtle with you to get there. The tub is a blast.

We complete our grooming rituals, and when you and I return to your room, we find Annie there in bed. It’s 6:45. I sit so she can see the pictures and start reading our new Baby Mercy book from Aunt Peanut. You sit in my lap, only a little squirmy, then pick out three more books and allow Dad to read a couple. He tells you the story of Hansel and Gretel, and says goodnight when, wow!, it’s still just 7:15.

And you’re quiet for 20 minutes, and then you emerge and tell me you have to go potty, even though you peed literally half an hour ago, but what am I gonna do? Walk with you to the bathroom, that’s what. You pee a tablespoon, and then get back in bed, and then request a BIG hug, and to kiss both of my cheeks. Smack, smack. And my forehead. Smack. And my nose. Smack. You chuckle. “That’s a hard one, right?” Right, Paul. Right.

a day in your life

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

You and Annie come out and tell me it’s my turn to turn off the green light. Thanks, guys. In return, Dad and I share the exciting news that it’s your birthday. You had forgotten.

We have a quick snuggle, and I turn you loose to get ready with Dad. He teaches you how to pee standing up. MILESTONE.

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You get dressed in the greenest shirt that’s still clean, and then switch to a different one, and then switch to your orange tie-dyed Panda shirt, and some camouflage socks because why not. Then it’s downstairs for a pile of blueberries, a peach, and some mini-pancakes—pretty much your perfect breakfast. You finish up, wash your hands unprompted, and ask if you can play for a minute. You race cars around the coffee table while the rest of us finish our preparations. Your special day nets you the privilege of carrying the vitamins out to the car. We pass them out once everyone is buckled in.

On the way to school, Annie asks for a story, and I hem and haw before proposing the one on my mind: how Paul was born. I hit the high points for you and field a number of mechanical questions. You enjoy the story but are disappointed to learn that you will not have a baby in your tummy one day. I feel disappointed, too, on your behalf.

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At school, you open the door by yourself and head inside. You hand over a small baggie of jelly beans that Ms. Natalie will pass out as treats (one each) for your birthday in the afternoon, and tell her about the most important part of your weekend: “Yesterday I had TURTLE CAKE AND TURTLE CUPCAKES.” You say goodbye to us as you pick up a paper towel for second-breakfast. Oranges and cheerios.

It’s a typical day at school, by all accounts, other than welcoming a couple of new Pandas to the class, and of course your jelly bean distribution. You nap with your doggie and eat well. I pick you up at 4:15, and you leap into my arms. On the way to the car, you ask, “Mom, could you hear me talking when you were at work?” I love the stuff I have to explain to you.

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You wear your birthday crown all the way home, and at 4:30 I tell you you’re EXACTLY three. Annie tells you that because you’re three now, she’s going to teach you something new tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Dad scoops you up at home and asks for your consultation on dinner. You decline the pizza restaurant in favor of mac and cheese at home, and when things get a little too rowdy for constructive cooking, take in a few happy episodes of Peppa Pig. At the dinner table, you demolish your mac and cheese and are delighted when I stick candles in your leftover turtle cake, and we sing to you again. You blow out the candles like a pro, have a few nibbles, and ask to save the rest of it for breakfast.

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Afterward, you hustle to the bathroom to wash your hands so you can open your last birthday present—the rest we have trickled out over the prior two days, so you could have them for your pool party and also as motivators for various desired behaviors, SORRY. You are super excited about this one—three construction vehicles you can take apart and put back together with a working drill, nuts, and bolts. Big fun. You execute capably under Dad’s tutelage, and enter another elaborate pretend world with Annie, involving home-building and the cast of Cars.

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Time marches on. It’s time to bathe, and Dad gets you washed pretty cheerfully in a green-tinted (turtle) bath while Annie showers on my watch. I help you into some undies with Cookie Monster on them, but you ask me to pretend it’s really Mater. We read a sweet short book together, Our Car, and then dabble in some baby-book selections while Annie veers into mania. Neither of you want to get in bed, but after a last pee and a countdown from 5, you manage it. I do my best to spread your blanket on you with NO WRINKLES. Dad gives you another rendition of The Tortoise and the Hare and sings you a song about Lightning McQueen. I see you once more about 10 minutes later, when Annie summons me. You tell me you’re almost a grown-up, and when you’re a grown-up, will I still be a grown-up? Yes.

“And Annie?”

“Yes.”

“And Dad?”

“Yes, we’ll all be grown-ups together.”

“But,” adds Annie, “They’ll have lots of wrinkles on their face.”

True enough. Goodnight, kiddo.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years and 11 months old.

You and Annie giggle your way into our room at 7:05. No early rising today—you were wide awake in your beds until almost 9 last night. You set up temporary camp in your pillow, wearing your baggy Ninja Turtles underwear and announcing you are a baby pony today. Once Annie is off and running, you consent to take my hand and begin the morning drill, and we go pretty quickly after that.

You’re happy to see a bowl of cold oatmeal with sliced banana for breakfast, eat it all and spend a few minutes with your toy cars before we head for the real one. You conduct your usual traffic inventory on the way to school, spotting police cars, taxis, school buses, and trucks of all sorts.

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You cruise into class with a confident stride, and then, oh my goodness, if it isn’t another line up of cars and trucks. Ms. Natalie has a different cool activity to start every day. You and Annie both admire it as your bagel breakfast gets set up. When I pop back into your class to find my lost car key 10 minutes later, you’re still there.

Thank goodness it’s splash day, because it’s been too hot to go to the playground all week, and you like to MOVE. Your teachers report you have lots of fun. Dad picks you up at 5 and ferries you and Annie to Home Slice for a pizza dinner. (I have decamped to California to celebrate my friend Debbie’s 40th birthday.) You peel off each piece of pepperoni and hold them up for Dad to blow on before you eat them. Then you salt your slice, declare it’s too spicy, and eat no more.

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Back home, bed preparation is accelerated to allow 15 minutes of Cars 2 (Holly Shiftwell! Finn McMissile!). Dad reads you two books (trolls, buses), and wraps up the evening with a story about a chocolate earthquake. Goodnight, goober.

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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:

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a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years and 9 months old.

You're getting so long!
You’re getting so long!

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It’s Mother’s Day. I am still in bed when you get up, so you and Annie climb in for a snuggle. You’ve brought your turtle shell (blanket), and Dad gets you a “fresh turtle butt,” which is how we’ve convinced our pretend baby-turtle to embrace a diaper change. You even have a song you sing, to the tune(ish) of Baby Shark: “FRESH, turtle-butt. Do doo de do.”

We head downstairs for a quick breakfast of fruit, and then you’re off walking with Dad to the Croissant House for the next course. You take the long way, snacking and enjoying the beautiful sunny morning. Back home, you deliver me my own pastry and commence fort-building on the living room couch. You and Annie have your own rooms and serve burgers and fries through the window.

too cute for words
too cute for words
blocks and trucks with Arya
blocks and trucks with Annie and Arya

Dad packs you off to brunch at Sour Duck with some friends, where you play in the kid corner and eat giant pancakes, your third meal before 11am. It’s a holiday…

Back at home, you have a little trouble settling down for nap. You hear Dad mowing the lawn in the backyard and throw up your shade to watch, then summon me from downstairs to declare you’re done napping. Not so fast, buddy. Dad and I talk you back into bed, tell a last story, and you finally fall alseep. We see you again at 3.

We pile into the car and head out to see our cousins for tea and a show: Lyla’s rock band, the Falling Bryans (no relation), playing their original song. It is marvelous. You are into it.

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After the performance, you build a house for your dog and poop in your diaper. Dad changes you on the picnic table—keepin it classy. Miles kicks a soccer ball with you for a long time, and we stay for every minute we can. We head home, eat a stand-up dinner of cold beans, and do our bedtime routine with minimal fuss. You conk out immediately. Goodnight, kiddo. It’s good to be your mom.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years and 8 months old.

You hop out of bed and turn off the green light as soon as it comes on, then open your door to find us. Dad heads upstairs and scoops you up, onto our bed so that Annie can lounge a bit longer. I find you two gazing into each other’s eyes as you gently flick your doggy’s tail.

You’ve slept in a rash guard because it’s “splash day” for the Pandas today, and changing shirts in the morning is one task we can avoid. We change your diaper, add a swimsuit, and strap you into some new-hand-me-down sandals that seem appropriate for a muddy playground.

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You’re feeling a little listless this morning, and lay about while Annie finishes her routine and heads downstairs for oatmeal. “Annie, will you save my bowl for me?” you ask, and she says, “Sure!” We make it through the tooth brush and hand rinse—you will not countenance soap these days—and head downstairs. Sure enough, your bowl is still empty on the counter, so you can carry it to the table yourself.

You scoop in oatmeal and strawberries with dexterity that still amazes me, and put away two big helpings. After a quick rub with a wet wipe, it’s off to the car, to buckle in and debate with Annie whether the soundtrack to Frozen or “Olaf’s Party Adventure” will season your drive to school.

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You splash and play at school, and release the “butterflies” (I think they’re actually moths) that hatched into the wild. You show off two small construction vehicles at your transit-themed Show and Share. Your classmate Fletcher brings a cool green plane that sort-of flies, and you see a demo outside.

At 4:15, I get a call: you have a fever. Oh no. You hang out with Ms. Stephanie near the front door as Dad makes his way through traffic to get you and Annie. Dinner when you arrive is a big plate of pineapple and a bowl of noodles. You eat the fruit and declare for the first time in your life that you’re tired. You’re not wheezing, exactly, but your breathing is labored in the way that doctors have taught me to worry about. You lie down on the couch with Dad while I finish dinner with Annie.

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Dad takes you upstairs and puts on a movie. Annie joins you, and I head to the drug store to get a fingertip oximeter, so I can stop wondering whether we should go to the emergency room. Your measurements are acceptable (95%, with a racing pulse that we watch quiet after a dose of ibuprofen). Oh, Paul.

Dad feeds you some cough medicine a little too abruptly, and you barf pineapple all over my lap. Unfazed, you ask me to clean off your thumbs so you can suck them, and we head to the bedroom for much-needed tooth brushing and a fresh diaper. You play with your airplane while I attempt to get the toothbrush in your mouth without activating your gag reflex. “Airplanes have four wings,” you tell me, “Like Fletcher’s.” Sure! Now open up.

We get there. You read a couple of books and help me fill up your robot cup so you can sip on water during the night—a special arrangement when coughs are bad. Of course Annie gets hers, too. (She’s pretty sure she is also Very Sick.) We have lots of good times with the finger-pincher/oximeter. You are definitely not suffocating, so we tuck you in, and I tell you both a long story about Anna getting sick when she ate some magic gum that Elsa froze when she was practicing her magic. Thank goodness for the trolls, who can almost always fix it.

Sigh. Goodnight, Paul. Keep breathing, okay?

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 2 years and 7 months old.

You wake up, notice the light is green, and bound out of bed. Annie tries to summon you to to turn it off together, but you race over and do it yourself while she slumps in defeat. Okay, not our finest start. “Tomowoh, we’ll do it togever,” you pledge. (Note from tomorrow: pledge broken.) We regroup. You tinkle in the potty, and you and Annie complete your lists without too much dithering. The 10-minute hourglass helps. We make it downstairs for a breakfast of oatmeal and bananas.

It’s just the three of us this morning, so getting out the door with all of our boxes checked takes some time. Sous snatches your toast, and you threaten to tantrum. I take it back from her, and you help me trim off the chewed-on part, then keep eating. Your immune system is gonna be great. I carry you out to the car at your request, juggling bag and keys and toast cup and dog. When we get there, you decide you wanted to walk by yourself, and come unglued. A passing neighbor looks at me in sympathy as I try to get you into your carseat and offers, “Been there.”

You manage to collect yourself at last after spending some time in the footwell and climbing into the seat by yourself. Phew. We’re on the road. You argue with Annie about whether you’ll listen to music (your request) or hear stories (hers), and I arbitrate: we will take turns. Your request is the beginning of Moana. All is calm by the time we reach school. You administer all your hugs, and you and Annie have your usual tender moment.

On pick up at 5, the caretaker tells me you had a good day, and we launch ourselves into SXSW traffic to get home.

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I heat up leftover tortellini and lasagna for dinner, surfing on the edge of your mood swings. You’re hungry. After dinner you do some sweet, solo make-believe play with your trains. I lure you upstairs and through most of your bedtime routine with promises of fresh toenail polish and a phone call to Dad, who’s in the SJC airport.

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Two-and-a-half, by the way, is significantly too early for the attention span and understanding to sit still and not on top of your wet toenail polish, but we manage without too big a mess. You are delighted to talk to your dad. “I see your eyes,” you inform him.

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We hang up at 7:15 and head to your room for a few pages of Cars and Trucks, and a full rendition of A Cowgirl and Her Horse. We’re just getting in bed when I realize your dog is downstairs, and of course we all have to parade down together to find him. We travel through the house in a pack when Dad isn’t home.

You do not want to go to bed, but we get there. At Annie’s request, I tell you both a story from the door about Elsa and Anna playing together all day, and not eating, and not going to bed, until they both get so tired their bodies fall asleep.