a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 4 months old.

A pancake breakfast cannot distract you from your disappointment that Annie is sick with a fever and will stay home from school, but you cannot. You dispute the temperature reading and insist on your own measurement. Alas, you are well.

so disappointing
so disappointing

You and I make it to school by discussing Pokemon evolutions all the way. Some consolation, anyway. We see Lino as we approach, and you hop right in line, part of the social stream.

I pick you up in the car, and we head to the grocery store to buy fruit and yogurt and things we need for the week. You’re not excited but game for it. On the drive there, I ask you to explain how to play the Pokémon card game, and you offer a very good explanation:

  1. Build a bench.
  2. Attach energy cards to your bench.
  3. If your active pokémon is strong enough, attack.
  4. “There’s a lot more, but it’s more advanced.”

This all turns out to be accurate. At Central Market, you ask for a quarter for a piece of fruit, and pick up a map of the store with a scavenger hunt. You ride in the cart and eat your apple while I pick up grapes and orange juice and mini pancakes and guacamole. You elicit a small lecture for trying and failing to throw your apple core in the trash (3 times). We get pink lemonade and chocolate mousse cups for Dad, and check out.

Back home you immediately pick up your tablet and score your 30 minutes of Prodigy. Dad whispers to me that he’s secretly set your level to second grade. I thought the word problems had gotten a lot more complicated, but you’re rolling with it. When you finish, dinner is served, and you eat your grapes and your beans and ignore the tamale and cucumber. Then Dad announces that it’s time to go to the Trail of Lights! Google has bought it out this year for their holiday party, and Dad scored a third ticket for you and Annie to both go with him. Aside from some major strife over the Ferris Wheel (you are keen to go; Annie is adamantly opposed), you have a ball.





a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 3 months old.

You are up eeeearly on this Saturday, raring to go at 6:15. You agitate for activities; Dad and I suggest cuddling on the couch for crosswords and coffee. You grudgingly accept this offer as the best you’re likely to get. As the sun rises, you eat toasted waffles and put another layer of wrapping paper on the birthday gift you’ve made for your friend Vera (it’s a giant paper airplane—she’ll be thrilled), and make one for River, too, while you’re at it. You watch Dad do a little guitar work.


When Annie is up and about as well, you two form your team and do some wrestling on the couch. Your toys line up for RPG battles. At opening hour, Dad takes you to Costco to stock up and perhaps spend some of your latest lemonade stand money. You are extremely disappointed to find nothing you can afford with the $8 remaining to you. Annie, however, purchases a pack of baby squishmallows that form the backbone of your next project: creating an endangered squishmallow refuge. After significant infrastructure arrangement, you emerge to ernestly plead with the donor class for visits and financial support.

Dad agrees to a visit but has no cash, so you kindly issue us both a store credit card.
Dad agrees to a visit but has no cash, so you kindly issue us both a store credit card. It’s 50 cents to feed a baby squishmallow.

The afternoon wears on, and it’s time for your next social engagement: Vera’s birthday party. You add 4 small squishmallows to her gift and a giant rainbox tag: I LOVE YOU VERA PAUL. I somehow fail to take a photo of this.

We arrive at Vera’s house and discover you are the only boy invited. You are unfazed. The girls like you, and I like their moms. Vera has made plans to marry you. We have a nice couple of hours.

scrambling for pinata treats
scrambling for pinata treats

Back at home, you don’t look so hot. You’re coughing in that complicated way you have that makes me picture every little bronchiole in your lungs, and your temperature is a little high. We decide stay home from dinner with the Crowders in favor of couch snuggles. You play Prodigy and casually execute some algebra (10 + 8 = __ + 5) while I read and take your temperature every 10 minutes. It never gets bad.

I do not mind this plan at all.
I do not mind this plan at all.

We eat dinner and you take a long steamy bath. There’s enough time for one more thing, and you decide on building a robot out of plastic cups, no maybe just drawing a blueprint, no actually we’re going to make a book, about us. You are going to be the illustrator, and I’ll be the writer. What is it about? YOU can decide, Mom. But NO PROBLEMS and NOTHING BAD.


You proudly complete our project, and we’re climbing into bed as Annie and Dad arrive home. Annie joins in the bedtime routine, and I read a library book to you about Jupiter and tuck all your lovies around you. Goodnight, goober.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 2 months old.

Dad calls from Berlin, and you talk to him on the phone as you wake up slowly in bed. Eventually you emerge to have breakfast, under the table in “niblet mode” (pretending to be helpless and silly). We pack your backpack to include a pickle juice bottle filled with water, and you are full of wicked glee at the idea of tricking your classmate Alexander (“he’s seven already!”) into thinking it’s actually pickle juice.

We walk to school with Aunt Camei. On the way, you admire the moon and share facts about it—moonlight is reflected sunlight—and new revelations. “That’s where the sun rises and sets,” you say pointing east, and pointing west, “That’s where the moon rises and sets.” Well… Correctly, you add, “But actually it’s the earth that’s moving.” And you get very still to see if you can feel it.

looking moonward
looking moonward

Approaching the school, you have the important revelation that perhaps your missing water bottles ARE IN THE LOST AND FOUND. What??? It’s sure worth a shot. You visit the box on your way in, but alas, no bottles. The recycled pickle juice container must do.

I don’t hear much about your day, but Aunt Camei picks you up at the end of it, and you have a pleasant walk home. After a snack, you visit the playground, and there things fall apart a bit. Expecting to stay until 5:30, you are extremely dismayed when the return-to-house occurs at 5:26, and fall apart into a defiant wreck. I come home briefly at about this time and take you upstairs to decompress. You share your sense of betrayal, and I attempt to reinforce adult authority before bugging out again for a work dinner. Reconcilliations are made over a screening of Paw Patrol and some Pokemon cards.


I return at 7:30 for the bedtime routine, and read a bit of Matilda and some of the Dangerous Book for Boys for you. Goodnight, little tiger.

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.


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.)


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.