a day in your life

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

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


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

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



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



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

a day in your life

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


a day in your life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 10 months old.

It’s officially the time when I start referring to you as “almost five.” We have a big, awesome day to report today. Dan and Peanut are here for the first time since The Pandemic, and it’s a Saturday, so we have lots of plans.


You wake up with a project to show off, an “American plane” in red, white, and blue. I spell the word at your request so you can label it appropriately. After a quick breakfast, you launch off before 8am with ambitions to walk around the whole trail loop, over 10 miles in the June heat. On the way, you hunt for and find our family brick on the trail.


Celebrating the Stroller Years
Celebrating the Stroller Years

The recently-reopened library is about at the halfway point, and your parade makes a pitstop for a gigantic poop and three books to support your spirits through the last miles. You do plenty of walking, too, and at the end, we celebrate with 3-D printed medals to commemorate your achievement.


We eat a giant pile of tacos for lunch. I give all the boys haircuts, starting with you. (Just a trim around the edges—your summer buzz cut needs no improvement.) You captain a Central Market trip with Annie, Peanut and I, stocking up on fruit and yogurt. You travel by clinging to the side of the cart. We buy $15 of apricots.

After a little down time watching Dad and Dan play Gran Turismo, you head for the swings. We do a little swing/hose-spray/bubbles combo, and then fill up the wading pool for major splashing. You and Annie pretend to dig through the water, splashing the grown-ups. No one minds much in the high-90s heat.


For dinner, you inhale half a hot dog, capped with lego-shaped candy for dessert. We decide the wading pool was basically a bath (there was bubble soap) and skip straight to an episode of Nature Cat to wind down. I read you a few pages of Harry Potter 2, which you mostly ignore. Sleep comes quickly. Goodnight, buddy.

a day in your life

To Paul, this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 9 months old.

You sleep hard straight through the green light, until Annie, intent on pancakes and finished with her own list, comes back to wake you up and help you with yours. You give a big yawn and allow pants and a toothbrushing. I make the pancakes, and you and Annie drop four chocolate chips on each of them in the pan. You eat and offer pointers to Annie, around a mouthful of strawberries, as she does a Kindergarten assessment.

While she finishes up, you make your own pancakes in the toy kitchen and launch a food delivery service. You bring me corn and kale, then announce, “Well, the delivery man has to go poop,” and do so. Annie joins your small business for a spell, then it’s time to go.



We load up and I drive you to school. I think you look quite dashing in your blue and lime green shirt with matching mask, and you give me a hug and tell me you love me before the teacher takes your temperature and lets you in.

Dad picks you up and announces Home Slice pizza for dinner, which you’re very excited about. Slices of cheese all around, and into the tub, with your race cars. Then everyone hops into bed—race cars too—for a couple episodes of Nature Cat, sneakily teaching you about the sources of streams and where they flow. Your cars turn into a rocket ship. We snuggle.


Bedtime. No one is interested in a picture book, just Harry Potter immediately. Dad reads for half an hour about mandrakes in Herbology class, then says goodnight. I take first watch, listening to you talking quietly and the gentle click of legos. When it’s still going on at 8, I enter to check on you. You are in bed; Annie is on the floor; and a forest of lego structures populates the space between you. You tell me calmly you have decided to use every lego in the drawer to build things for Daddy, and indeed you seem about 95% of the way there. I tell you you have two minutes to finish, and then where should you be? “In bed.” I come back two minutes later, and that’s where you both are.


a day in your life

To Paul, this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 8 months old.

You pop up this morning raring to go, clad in a girls-fit Halloween shirt with sequined jack’o’lantern and your standard track pants. You claim to have brushed your teeth—questionable—but we elect to take your word. Downstairs you and Annie launch a play world, but agree to pause for a waffle and yogurt. While Annie does kindergarten work, you and Dad make paper airplanes.


Dad drops you at school. You’ve brought the airplanes: one for you and one for friend Shae. At 9:15 Annie joins you after her annual check-up, and at lunch you are dismayed to discover it’s the sandwich which used to be the only thing you liked so we ordered them forever and now you hate them. Ah, life. You’re engaged in some sort of circle game at pick-up.

Home, you bustle in and are delighted to find blackberries on your dinner tray. You trade me five peas for one of mine, and save one tiny seed to plant so we’ll always have plenty. (We do not, alas, actually plant the seed.) Annie invites you to the bathroom to tell you a secret, which pleases you. You finish the fruit parts of dinner and ask to be excused.

It’s time to jump on the couch, which you haven’t done in so long I’d hoped you’d forgotten about it. And of course you need the White Stripes, “side D.” Annie finds some of Dad’s rejected neck gaiters in the give-away pile, and these become costume pieces. You rock out.

Couch jumping evolves into obstacle-course building, which you two collaborate on and lay in a track all the way to the downstairs closet. There you create a nest we will later discover to be a disaster, but keeps you happily entertained for at least 20 minutes. Overheard: “Now I need a TRILLION pillows!!” You emerge and decide it’s time for an airplane ride on my feet, and carefully position me so that, without any risk to my person, you can pretend to knock me backwards from sitting and then launch into the air. “No tickles but high,” you specify. Yes, sir.


Unfortunately, during the nest-build Annie cuts her foot on something, and screams in fear of the blood. We manage to get it bandaged, and you get in on the post-war-wound soothing video, an episode of Nature Cat via Dad’s phone. Then it’s upstairs. You brush your teeth, really this time, and make it clear you’d much rather be playing with your cars and helicopter than listen to stories. Dad lets you take them into bed while I read and you ignore The Great Kettles. You stay reasonably near bed, though, for the story and then afterwards. You flip through a book about the planets and ask me which planets have rings, and how do they get rings, and could the Earth have rings, which causes me to talk about the moon exploding, and then Annie to ask whether the Earth could explode. “No,” I say firmly, then, “Okay, goodnight, I love you!”

I see you again at 8:45. Annie has accidentally awoken you with some elaborate plans to act as the toothfairy and leave you treats under your pillow. (This is the secret she was telling you earlier.) I soothe you back to bed…and assist her with execution at 9:30.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 7 months old.

You’ve slept well, and emerge into our room still groggy at 7:10. Dad and I take turns snuggling you as you wake up.


You’re extremely hungry due to rejecting dinner last night, so ask if I can help you with your clothes and teeth so we can get down to breakfast asap. Of course! We dress and descend. You tell me I can pick what’s for breakfast, so it’s sort of the end of a few bags of cereal, mixed up. Yum. Also some yogurt.

You and Annie decided yesterday you want to be the first to school, and everything is smooth sailing, so you depart with Dad at ten till 8 and are delighted to be the second kids there. There’s a fiesta at school today to celebrate the beginning of spring, with Venezuelan-themed snacks. You play and play.

Dad picks you up, too, and at 5 you and Annie ring the doorbell, pretending to be delivering packages. Actually, you are the package, and I sweep you up in a hug, “my favorite delivery of all.”

You’re giddy with the possibilities of home, and bounce around between options for fun (the swings! a new box to play in! painting that box!) before settling on, no surprise, a level of the robot game while dinner finishes cooking.


At dinner, you turn to me and ask, “Do you know HOW I learned I had super powers?” “No, how??” “I could pick up a WHOLE HOUSE.” “A whole house??” “Yeah, OVER MY HEAD.”

You decamp to the swings with your push-up pops for dessert. Finding an ancient deflated beach ball partially filled with water, you return and ask us to fill it up, all the way, with water. Dad declines and smuggles it to the trash while you return to romping.


It’s Friday and movie night, so we pop some popcorn and fire up The Incredibles, which you mostly follow. Super heroes, man, they’re all over the place.

During the movie, you turn to me and share: “Mommy, do you know what my car looks like? It’s rainbow polka dot, and it has two projectors on both sides, and a turbo jet on top, AND it can get clean with a lightning bolt. It doesn’t even need to go through a car wash!” Awesome.

We head up to bed at 7. Brush teeth, change clothes, and read the customized books Nanny Charly got for you both years ago. Annie executes a sun salutation with Dad while you and I lie in your bed-tent-cave, and you tell me about our super powers. You are Lightning Storm, who fights storms by creating new suns that pop the clouds. Whoa. I am Superman, you tell me, and I save people from fires. There is a lot more. You could go on. At 7:35, I extract myself, and Dad reads a chapter of DogMan. Spirits remain high. It’s going to be a good weekend.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 and a half!

Today would have been your Friday Valentines party at school, but instead we are enjoying the headwinds of an arctic air mass. The streets are covered in ice, and school is closed. You appreciate this news, and, accustomed to proudly stating your age as “four and a quarter,” you are also keen to hear that today you are four and a half! We celebrate with cupcakes for breakfast. At your request, I make you and Annie ribbons of honor to announce your age to the world. Off to a strong start.

You and Annie jump into some play together: you set up camp in a tent, and she delivers presents to you. This breaks down after about half an hour, and you persuade me to feed you yogurt. With Annie, you embark on a cooking experiment involving water, a cherry, and lots of mashing. It ends messily.

To get out of the house despite the cold, cold weather, Dad to take you to the grocery store, where you happily procure fruit and tortillas and even more yogurt. Then it’s time for some screen time while both of us are in meetings: your pick is Super Hero Elementary.

A peanut butter and banana sandwich makes a late lunch, and you run back to watch Annie play the Playstation 5 tutorial game, the first video game either of you has shown sustained interest in playing rather than watching. It’s pretty cute. Dad supervises some rowdy play, and helps you both build an art center and a yoga center. Annie persuades you to explain how you do magic (“I poof it out of my hands.”) and your secret recipe for magical things (sugar, water, flour, and grow powder). You are dismayed to have revealed this secret. (“Annie made me say what I didn’t want to say!”)

It’s 4pm, and movie time. You settle in for Tinker Bell, and then we roll right into The Jungle Book for an encore. Dinner is mac and cheese. Dessert is, oh wait, we had dessert for breakfast. But popcorn, we eat that too. And a little bit of Snoopy. Ah, snow days.

We hustle up to bed, and you indulge in a little racing around on your way to bed. I read you I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, and say goodnight.

You and Annie are not quite done. When I peek in on you at 9, I find your campsite. I take a picture, and tiptoe out.

a day in your life

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

At 7:05, you parade in cheerfully, and make an announcement: it’s snuggle time. You scooch right into bed between Dad and I and let us both cuddle you close. Annie is still in bed, and you are quite content to have us to yourself. You ask for my help getting dressed, and I bring you clothes and your toothbrush. We head downstairs.

You are determined to prepare breakfast yourself. You hunt for the dried mango in the pantry, stack up mini-pancakes into two towers of four, and carefully punch the microwave buttons to cook them. Triumphant, you tuck in.

Annie joins us and you have seconds. You bop around the house while she listens to her kindergarten teacher on the tablet. When it’s time to load up, you climb the counter to retrieve your daily vitamins and head out to the car with me, declining a jacket. It’s 30 degrees outside. You joke around in the car while I hover at the door, trying to playfully persuade you to sit down so I can I buckle you in. Frost is melting on the roof of the car and dripping onto the back of my neck. We accomplish our mission. Dad drives you to school.

You tell us nothing about your day. Dad picks you up at the end of it, and you and Annie watch 10 minutes of Blippi (Google him) while I finish cooking. Dinner is tortelli, tomatoes, and cheese, and you put it away fast.


Excused from the table, you launch into solo play, riding your firetruck around the house and talking to yourself. About 10 minutes in, you have crash-landed back by the table. I jot down the following exchange:

Paul: It seems like I’m always sad. I always have a sad face.

Mom: Mmmmm.

Paul: But I don’t know WHY I’m sad.

Mom: Hmm.

Paul: (flipping over and examining the firetruck ladder in your hand) But at least I have this boat!

And the ladder becomes a boat and you are off and running again.

You help me order groceries online from Costco—“of course blackberries”—and then agree to play upstairs. You and Annie start with running camp, doing tight laps around the inside of your room, and then evolve through a few other sports into ballet. Dad arrives. Swan Lake plays.


Annie assigns you roles as a co-dancer and team doctor, and when our attention wanders from the performance, abruptly announces a game change to garbage trucks + throwing balls at each other. Okay, sure.


Given that progression, it’s unsurprising that bedtime is a little wild. You sit in my lap for a book despite seditious Annie whispering in your ear that you should come run around with her. Dad has to threaten no story at all to get you in your beds, and after a chapter and a goodnight, you and Annie appear out of bed another time or two with additional demands. One is to hold you and sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, which I’m not unhappy to do, rocking you ineptly while your long legs dangle past my knees.

a day in your life

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

At 6:45, you are crying, loudly. I enter. You are in your sleeping bag on the floor, in a circle with Annie, Eleanor, and Riley, on the morning side of a sleepover. “Eleanor HIT ME,” you confide/accuse, tears in your eyes. “She hit me in the cheek. And she called me STUPID.”

Yikes, brother. I issue the verdict that Eleanor has made a bad choice, and ask you all to use your words and bodies to help each other feel good, not bad, then leave you again to your own devices. You all keep talking and playing. You start crying again, in a more performative tone, and we hear you say, “I’m going to KEEP CRYING until MOM COMES.” I decline to be summoned in this manner. We hear Eleanor apologize to you for unknown infractions. You calm down. The playing continues.

At 7:05 you all burst screaming into our room. The light, it turns out, has turned green. You all work through your short list, then assemble around the dining room table for pancakes and grapes and dried mango. Calories ingested, you get right back to playing, chasing each other around the house, pulling toys off the shelf, loudly denying Riley the right to play with your firetruck—the usual.


After about an hour of this, we decide the walls can’t take much more bouncing off and launch a walk. You lead the pack down the hill, determined to go all the way to the trail. Fortunately, the empty playground proves a suitable distraction. There’s a man sleeping under a tarp at the entrance to the big slide, but otherwise many possibilities available to you. We head home in time to meet Doug and Kalia with a mess of breakfast biscuit sandwiches, and you fit in one last round of imaginative play, building a dinosaur world with Eleanor and Annie before they depart.

You are interested in a breakfast taco, so we make one together. You carefully tap the eggs to crack them, then squeeze them with your fingers until they explode over the bowl—aside from the mess on your hands, a suprisingly effectively technique. You eat your taco proudly and declare yourself ready for our Saturday morning walk. “FARTHER than Colibri,” and also “to the trail.” With those requirements in mind, we decide on our usual loop in reverse. You are riding your bike, and Annie’s on her scooter. All goes well until the downhill on Bouldin, during which you seem to be having a little too much fun at the expense of safety, cruising across streets without requisite adult accompaniment. At the bottom of the hill, consequences come due, and I basically pry your bike out of your hands. This does not land well. Some time is spent in reconcilliation activities. With assurances of safer practices and listening ears, we agree to another chance. We cross Barton Springs, and you tear off into the park, quickly out of range again. Oy.



You continue to test the proverbial fence line until we’re nearing the final leg, then surrender your vehicle and ride the rest of the way home in the stroller. Phew. It’s 1:30. We’re beat, and give you over to the embrace of your tablet for an hour or so.

At 3:30, we continue our wildly social day with a masked, backyard playdate with Shae, a new friend of yours from school. Your initial reluctance gives way to great fun swinging and shoveling gravel and chasing each other in circles around the deck. (We enjoy chatting with his parents; his dad is a physical therapist at UT’s medical school, and in line to get the Pfizer vaccine in the coming week.) When you accidentally clobber Shae and retreat under the dining table for a shame spiral, I manage to redirect you with gift-making possibilities, and you reconcile over a handful of balloons.


We say goodbye to them just before six, and head inside for dinner. While Dad and I dine on a delicious pot roast, you inhale half a cup of refried beans and eat a mango popsicle for dessert.

You sit in my lap for a few pages about road-building in Cars and Trucks and head to bed pretty willingly for the last chapter of Stuart Little. Stuart is driving in his mouse-sized roadster, heading north with a song in his heart. I say goodnight, close the door, and you wink out like a light.