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.


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.

paul's class releases butterflies

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

a day in your life

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

We meet first at about 12:20am. You have been moaning plaintively, like a morose Victorian heroine, or a line-drawn Edward Gorey character, and I’ve barged into the room to ask you what the problem is. You seem surprised to see me, which means I certainly should have stayed away. After a hug, you settle right down and go back to sleep. A few more outbursts ensue throughout the night, but you recover on your own.

Seven hours later, you burst out of your room the moment the magic light turns green, crowing to me in amazement. We’ve had this clock for over a month, and it still makes you more excited than Christmas morning. You are concerned that Annie will switch off the beloved green light and hover protectively around the clock until you decide you’d rather end it yourself than live with the risk that she will do it.

You look at me in surprise: “I’m tinkling right now!!” you announce. “I have a LOT of tinkle! I should go potty!” We unburden you of your warm, heavy diaper, and you sit on the potty, for practice. You’ve done this only a half-dozen times at home, but plenty at school, and Ms. Bertha told me the story just yesterday of your first actually-peeing-on-the-potty achievement at the end of last week. You’re on your way, kiddo!

We put on jeans and boots, obtain a gentleman’s C in hand-washing and tooth-brushing, and you check all the boxes on your list. We head downstairs. You serve yourself big scoops of strawberries and pears, and a bit of oatmeal on the side. After some running around and one minor tantrum at not getting to press the button on the toaster oven, we head out the door. You and Annie are jazzed to help roll out the trash bins, and actually manage to get them halfway up the driveway yourselves.

This is genuinely helpful.
This is genuinely helpful.
Your boots, you tell me, are good for "kicking dirt."
Your boots, you tell me, are good for “kicking dirt.”

We buckle into the carseats and decide on the Moana soundtrack to take us to school. I clarify plot points all the way there. We hold hands to cross the street, and you run down the hallway to your class, landing definitively in the entryway, stance wide and ready for action.


With a hug for Annie and two kisses for me, you head to the table for applesauce, and go on to a day of Panda-ing. Ms. Natalie makes a volcano for you. You eat, play, and nap.

At 4:30, Shanna picks you up. You get loaded into the car and then make a detour back into school so Annie can pee. On the drive, Shanna notices that our taco truck has moved; you tell her it’s because the wind was blowing the tacos away.

You eat tortellini for dinner and play with water bottles from the cabinet. The Roomba comes up, and you reminisce about “Mr. Roomba”—i.e. the Craigslist buyer—coming to take it away. “I’m really sad,” you tell her. I cannot believe this is true. But I also can’t believe you remember this mundane event from more than a month ago, so who’s to say?

Bath- and bed-time arrives, and you do your usual thing. Night night, Mr. Paul.

a day in your life

A guest post by Granddad

L&B go to Florida while Susu and Granddad (or “Grandy”, as Paul now says half the time) spend the weekend when you, Paul, are about to turn two years, five months of age, on Saturday.

To properly set the stage, we begin with events on Friday. The first thing you did after school that afternoon was take us to your room to ‘show and tell’ about the new beds and wondrous clock. In an authoritative voice, Annie then quickly informed us that you both could watch Frozen as many times as you wanted on the weekend.

Saturday officially begins at 7:05 when you burst out of your room and implore us to see the green glowing clock. You had been awake, quietly talking, since 6:20. Your game plan is to divide and conquer immediately; so Annie begins work on her checklist, and you state that you want breakfast NOW, in your pajamas and with a dirty diaper. We negotiate at least the diaper change and head down to forage breakfast.


After finally reuniting you with Annie upstairs, both of you refuse to wear a stitch of clothing beyond your diaper and panties and flatly refuse the traditional Saturday walk. Perhaps half of the new checklists are accomplished. We improvise until lunch time with laundry, photos of cows and mermaids, and rolling tennis balls around. It’s leftover manicotti for lunch followed by a pre-nap walk with Sous to the swings at Little Stacy Park. You are outfitted in your new cowboy boots and the outrageously cute Gap vest, prompting several compliments from other park visitors. Annie decides to stay home with Susu. All goes well, and Granddad successfully manages a calm slow-down that leads to an hour and a half nap. Meanwhile sister Annie gets her first viewing of Frozen. You awaken with the most mellow and relaxed demeanor, loving the world and the grandparents that are in it. You ask about Mom and Dad.

A trip to Central Market highlights mid-afternoon. And no trip is complete without balloons and free cookies. Granddad quickly corrects the mistake of procuring balloons of two different colors. The balloon tied to Annie turns out to be the only way we can keep up with her as she darts about. You, on the other hand are unusually sedate as you ride in the cart. The large red holiday grapes turned out to be the reason for your calm attitude. Two pounds of grapes were reduced by half, one grape at a time, as you surreptitiously plucked them from the produce bag. When we arrived home, it looked as if a plague of locusts had attacked the defoliated stems.


After dinner, it’s relatively sane play time, and a shower. Ever hopeful Granddad attempts watching his beloved Cowboys in a playoff game; you are mildly interested but beg off after a few plays. The Cowboys lose. We are only 30 minutes late for story time and Where do Diggers Sleep at Night? You relentlessly request additional readings; but after three, Granddad firms up, and with a stiff upper lip, you call it a night. You request that Susu rub your tummy and hold your hand like Mom does. (Mom and Dad are in Florida, you and Annie tell us again.) Good night sweet prince. Can’t believe you are already 2 years, five months.

a day in your life

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

You wake up cheerful, and I pluck you out of bed. As has become your custom since we introduced pajamas into our routine, you do not want to get dressed, melting quickly down into a screeching wreck at the mere prospect. I carry you and your clothes downstairs and around the kitchen as you wail.

“Can you use your words, Paul?”

With heroic effort, you take a deep breath and ask, hiccuping, “Can you, put my clothes, back upstairs?”

We compromise and I tuck them out of sight in a chair, so that you can attend to your yogurt and grapes un-offended by the prospect of pants. Peace returns.


When Dad and Annie arrive, you appeal to him regarding wearing pajamas at school, and he authorizes you to remain in your penguin shirt. I coax you into your jeans with an explanation about tough pants being needed for the playground. We finish off your outfit with a couple of hair clips and are out the door.

hanging on
hanging on

You cling to me at Panda’s drop-off, resisting the allure of painting and home center, but after two big hugs for me, one for Annie, and one for each of my legs, you find your way to the next activity. Today’s big adventure is spending time on the big-kid playground while the small one has work done. You share it with Annie and find each other at playtime. A new student assistant manages to put your afternoon diaper on inside out, and you wear it that way for hours, resulting in damp pants but no catastrophes.

It’s Wednesday, and Shanna brings you home. You generously offer her gnawed-on pieces of your dinner—such a good sharer. You play in the living room, pushing around your shopping cart filled with your bicycle helmet, odds and ends.

Soon it’s time for bath, book, and bed, the routine only slightly disturbed by a low-battery chirp out of the downstairs smoke alarm, that sends Sous into her panic routine. Untroubled, you drift off to sleep. Goodnight, Mr. Paul.

a day in your life

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.

a day in your life

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.

a day in your life

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.

You are watching my dry my hair, with some alarm.
You are watching me dry my hair, with some alarm.

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.

I love the expression on your face, even if the photo's blurry. You're a beautiful kid.
I love the expression on your face, even if the photo’s blurry. You’re a beautiful kid.

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.

the determined glint in your eye as you set into cob #1
the determined glint in your eye as you set into cob #1
cousin play
cousin play

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.

a day in your life

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.

This Texaco truck is made of metal and at least 50 years old.
This toy truck is at least 50 years old. You are wearing 4-year-old May’s high tops.

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.

It's cool to see it.
8218 S Newport Ct today.
Can't resist posting this one, too, of the backyard in 1981. The creek remains, but the rise behind it is covered in houses.
Looking the other way in 1981. That view is now covered in houses. Granddad and I have also changed.

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.

running through a field in Willow Creek Park
running through a field in Willow Creek Park

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.

pure Paul
pure Paul

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.