a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years old.

You wake up at seven and emerge with a sweet smile and the knowledge that today, finally, at last, is your birthday. You have been waiting to turn six since your first kindergarten classmate celebrated his birthday last fall. You made a list with me two months ago about the important features of your party (bounce house, giant panda legos), and wrapped yourself presents that we carefully put away until the big day. Which is finally here.

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I make you cinnamon toast and sliced peaches for breakfast, which you are mostly too excited to eat. We decide opening a present or four is just fine, especially since two of them are from you. We start with giant bubble wands, which our California friends introduced us to, and try them out in the backyard. While Annie weeps with jealousy, you open a stuffed panda that repeats back what you say, from Gamma and Gobka, and give it its inevitable name, “Pandy 13.” Some sharing arrangement is reached, and you collaborate happily. (It will take you 10 hours to realize it can also repeat farting noises.)

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It’s the last day of climbing camp at Austin Bouldering Project—one of your favorite camps so far. You receive your last installment in a new wardrobe of camp shirts, and take a group picture. Can you find you?

Dad picks you up at 4, and brings you straight to Travis Heights Elementary, where you meet your teacher and see your first-grade classroom for the first time. Your teacher is Ms. Vasquez, and though best-friend River is not in your class, Jude and Vera and some other of your favorite friends are. You pick out a red backpack, and Dad carries in a box of your school supplies. I see you when you find me at the PTA membership table. You orbit me for a bit and then go get a cup of ice cream on the blacktop.

You head back home, and as a very special birthday present, Dad completes all the boss fights to finish Sack Boy for you. Could anything be better? At the dinner table, you review some other birthday greetings.

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Time for bed. You brush your teeth and climb up without prompting, and I read Doodle Day at your request. I say goodnight, and you and Annie build a castle out of books in the corner of your bed before you finally fall asleep. Happy birthday, kiddo.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 11 months old.

Bit of a late night last night, so you don’t tumble out of your room until a few minutes after 7. You and Annie are already niblets, and build an elaborate nest under the dining room table that we allow against our better judgment. Dad makes you pancakes while I get ready for work, and drives you down the street for Creative Action camp.

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It’s a small group at camp—just 8 or 10—so you and Annie are together all day. Dad picks you up at 12:30, finding you jolly and just digging into lunch. You bring the box along for an exciting trip to The Dentist! :D You lay on your exam chairs side-by-side and watch your selected television shows on the ceiling while the kind hygenists clean your teeth. Odd Squad for you, and a clean bill of health. You turn chatty when the dentist arrives, recapping major dental events for him. The x-rays show your top two front teeth ready to descend, and we’re advised to floss between your upper-right where food is stuck. You need an expander as soon as possible. The dentist offers orthadontist recommendations. Cool.

Dad drives you back to camp, and you have a long conversation about road tar. It’s 109 degrees. Back at camp, they confiscate your bouncy ball from the dentist after you bounce it into every nook and cranny of the room. I pick you up at 4:30, and we spend the 3-minute drive home planning the evening. Your request, naturally, is Sack Boy, your latest video game. We discuss habit formation and float a 2-day/week video game policy, on non-dessert nights. It seems like a great idea to all of us, especially since tonight is one of the nights. You and Dad settle in on the couch for a half-hour of silly animated play.

It’s time for dinner, and for us to reap the consequences of our morning niblet-nest building. Before we eat our Homeslice pizza, we must clean it up. You do it, literally kicking and screaming, with the threat of no more video games hanging over your head. Afterward, you retire to the seclusion of the living room, announce you are not eating dinner, and yell that you can’t sit at the table with us because we don’t even like you.

I was just telling Granddad that I couldn’t remember your last tantrum.

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Eventually you make it to the table, and we reassure you that we will always like you AND love you, but you gotta clean up your messes, buddy. You eat a slice of pizza and finish up your game.

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Bedtime is still a looong way away. You play with a toy car and climb into my lap while I idly shop for a new rug for your room. We pick favorites. You ask to look at the world map, and spin it around to see where it’s day and night. You hunt for and find Bergamo on the map, and zoom into see fields in central Brazil. We move to the calendar and add birthdays for all of your little doggies, on every day of March. During bathtime, we plan his party.

You get into fresh clothes and climb into bed. I read Life on Mars and pages from your book on sharks (Tiger Sharks: Fear Factor 10). I say goodnight.

Falling asleep is rocky as Annie is trying to kick her thumb-sucking habit again, and not quietly. You sense I have made her some objectionable promise, like late-night snuggle time, and are determined to wait us out. We all get to sleep in the end.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 10 months old.

You sleep in, thank goodness, catching up after a Saturday shortage. You and Annie start bopping around at maybe 7:30. I leave you to your own devices and meet you in the kitchen around 8. You are ready for all sorts of action. We’ve decided to celebrate Father’s Day a week early since we’ll be jet lag zombies in Italy next Sunday, so while Dad takes a shower, we set up his gifts as a surprise. You are keen on making a paper flower, so I show you the ropes. We hide in the entryway until you hear him coming downstairs, and then we all jump out and yell, “Happy Father’s Day!” Dad is properly delighted.

Dad opens the presents from you simultaneously in a display of non-favoritism.
Dad opens the presents from you simultaneously, in a display of non-favoritism.
Table manners are a work in progress.
Table manners are a work in progress.

You two decide you could go for a breakfast pastry, so Dad walks you and your lovies up to Mañana, and you eat chocolate croissants on the back patio. You head home. There’s a new video game to try: Sackboy: A Big Adventure. It’s more wholesome than it sounds. You excercise your preternatural gaming skills to search for some things and jump on others, until it’s time to eat again.

I feed you fruit and yogurt for lunch, and you coax me into a game of…hedgehog tag? There are rules, elaborate rules, and they keep changing in your favor. We’re also printed a stream of tiny blue hedgehogs, which you present to me as they multiply, perhaps to console me for my persistent losses. You and Annie go off and play something for a while. You return to us to ask permission for Minecraft, and retreat to the loft when I say yes. I join you and read a book in a beanbag chair while you two discuss your latest building project.

Late in the afternoon, we rally for a trip to a crowded Barton Springs, for a swim and a picnic with another THES parent and her 10-year-old Augustus. You like him a lot. You swim until your body heat runs out, warm up in the 104-degree sunshine, and play some rowdy catch with Augustus. We head outside pool grounds and picnic between the parking lot and the giant drum circle. (Austin can still muster a little weird.) After food and a bit of a lounge, you, Annie, and Augustus go and have the time of your lives on a giant pile of dirt. You come home with some in your nostrils.

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Back home, you pound a push-up pop and hop in the tub. We get the worst of the dirt off. Then it’s fresh clothes and into bed fast, where Dad closes the night with a brief original story about Smaug the dragon. He says goodnight. A few minutes later, you hear him putting out the recycling and wrench the blinds sideways to say hello. He yells at you through the window, and then comes in to apologize. You forgive him and have just a few more ideas for things you might need in bed. He demurs, says goodnight again, and you fall asleep.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

a day in your life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a day in your life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a day in your life

To 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.)

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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.

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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.