To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 1 month old.
You stride into our room at SEVEN ZERO EIGHT, and you and Annie commence a cheerful half-hour of play. We get dressed, and Annie administers a band-aid for your vaguely banged-up elbow. Big plans to make a smoothie break down when Annie instead of you pulls the frozen mango bag from the freezer. We power through your tantrum and make it to the table. Dad pulls the stroller up the front steps, and you hop up to unlock the door for him. “Dada, I love going on runs with you.”
We make a nice loop through the neighborhood. Annie sings. “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love Paul, tomorrow. That’s Annie singing,” she clarifies, “but she put a ‘Paul’ in there because she loves him.”
Back home, it’s time for our projects. You’re excited to help Dad with the yardwork, and our tiniest leaf blower suits you just fine. We read some books, and you and Annie play, play, play.
Dad is heading over to Colibri to spruce up the internet connection, so I let you watch TV for a couple of hours while I make dinner and do boring grown-up things.
Dad comes home, and it’s time to eat. You put away a huge chunk of salmon and even a few vegetables. It’s a dessert day (!) and I’ve made lemon sherbet, so you eat a little bowl of it on the back deck. Before we know it, bedtime arrives. No bath tonight, just a quick story and a chapter of Charlotte’s Web. Goodnight, my man.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years old.
You know it’s your birthday, so there’s no holding back when you wake up. You burst into our room, ready to go. “LEMME TELL YOU WHAT TIME IT IS,” you shout as you climb into the chair by the window, and get face-to-face with the digital clock to tell us. “SEVEN, OH, SIX!!”
You have recently discovered that telling time is THIS EASY, after years of us pointing at the analog clock and confusing you with details about how the hour hand is shorter than the minute hand but also more important. Nonsense. Now you just read the numbers and there you go! Every new minute is a delight and merits an announcement from our self-appointed town crier. (Seven, oh, SEVEN!!!)
Anyway, it’s your birthday. Breakfast is your very favorite sausage roles, and you open two presents. One is your big one: an unconscionably expensive American Girl doll, so you can join Annie’s play community. She arranges an immediate introduction to Julie and Felicity, and you name the poor kid Pez. Pez Lez Paul. I don’t know what to say. The second present is a pair of new sneakers, which you put on immediately to test their speed. It is, to be precise, “super-fast giant big speed.” You and I end up on a race circuit around the kitchen. I lose.
It’s time for school, and you’re okay with that. We make the short drive, and don our masks in the car before we unload. The teachers are waiting at the door, and Ms. Patricia begins singing in her beautiful voice as soon as she sees you. “Cumpleaños feliz, cumpleaños feliz…”
You show her your new shoes, and she asks if you can go fast in them. I think she knows you. You get through the temperature and sanitation drill, and are in for the day. You are celebrated well, with cake bites to share and a giant piñata in the yard, and make a family tree in the art studio, with green stars for each member.
Dad picks you and Annie up at 4:30, and you come home to more presents and playtime. You tear into a giant bag from Charly’s sweet mom, and we read some books together and color a page in a coloring book.
The Crowders join us, and you run around with Eleanor and Riley for a while before the chaos overwhelms us, and we turn on some pacifying television. Dinner is more of your favorites: hot dogs, blueberries, and corn on the cob, on the dinner trays with little compartments for everything. You all eat around a kids table, with Sous on high alert.
You requested blue cake with green cupcakes, which is a little silly, frankly, but it’s your day. We bring it out singing, and you get this particular small smile on your face I will do anything for: the quiet pleasure of feeling special. You blow out the candle, and everyone gets a slice and a cupcake.
Phew. It is after seven (SEVEN, OH, THREE). We say goodbye to our friends and make it upstairs for a quick bath and the usual routine. You are tired, and sad that your birthday is over. I read you a last story (a chapter or two from Jack and Annie at the first Thanksgiving), and say goodnight. My four-year-old.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 11 months old.
We’re at the ranch! It’s been so long that the clock in your room hasn’t been switched for daylight savings time, so you and Annie spend a bonus 45 minutes playing in the top bunk, patiently waiting for your light to turn green. I finally get curious and discover you. Liberated, you head for the kitchen to see what wonders breakfast holds. It’s Susu’s pancakes, yum.
You and Granddad scout out the Pou’s storage closet for building supplies and return with good news: the lake is equipped for sand castles. The party sets forth, and you and Annie scoop sand with all the interesting shovels. You are in your element. You have clearly been holding a mental list of all the things to do at the ranch through the time we could not be here, and have marched through them with a singleminded focus since we arrived.
Next up: a ride with Dad in the kayak. Check. Then a more leisurely float with Mom and Annie, check. Then back to the ranch for lunch. But first just a little racing cars down the slide. And burying things in the sandbox. And the playing with Annie in the hottub.
We take a load off with a few episodes of Stinky and Dirty, right up your alley, and then you’re back on Little Kermit, doing laps. By this point, you are pretty darn tired. Yesterday at this time you declared you needed a nap and went off and took one (whaaa??), but today you descend into whines until we prop you up in front of the television again.
We straggle through dinner and manage to bathe you. Cake for dessert. Dad reads you some things, administers hugs, kisses, and songs. You snuggle down in the bottom bunk, and fall asleep.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 10 months old.
You stride in with a grumpy morning face, but are soon wallowing around on the bed with me, baby-turtling it. We have extreme cuddles. Dad liberates me to go for a run, which I do while he takes you in to play with the latest epic train track in your bedroom. “Wanna build an elephant train?” he proposes. You’re in.
You eat toast and dried mango for breakfast on the front porch, and he drives you to the Crowders’ for Spanish camp. It’s a who-knows? kind of day. I pick you up at 5:30, and you’re racing toy cars around the living room table with Riley while the girls lurk in the shrubery outside, pretending to be pet unicorns. Kalia tells me she just heard you speak a lot of Spanish, asking for milk and telling her the words for things. Ms. Patricia beats a hasty retreat, which I take to mean you all have been terrible to her.
You ask if you can watch some talking trains in the car, right now, and I consent. It’s pretty hard to pry you out of playtime, so I’ll agree to pretty much anything if you’ll motivate your own departure. I leave you buckled into the backseat, holding my phone and watching a video of a cartoon train singing Christmas carols in Hindi. Kid you not.
Once Annie is wrangled, you two manage to find more ridiculous cartoons on YouTube that get you all the way home and seated at the dinner table. The video ends before dinner is served, though, so I have time to show you today’s exciting new deck feature: the climbing net. You scamper right up it a time or two. Athlete.
You eat the fruit and cheese off your dinner plate, declining to touch the actual, real, delicious food, but whatever you’re three. We video-chat with Gobka and Gamma, who have coincidentally cooked the exact same roast chicken dish for dinner. (The one you won’t eat.) You are very excited for them to hear you say the word poopy. Again, three years old.
You devour a scoop of ice cream for dessert and whiz through your bedtime routine to allow for an episode of Octonauts. Then to the bedroom, where you do a lap or two with your train and then snuggle in for a Mercy Watson book. You get into bed without too much fuss, and I tell you a story about two marmots looking for a home in the mountains of Colorado, in honor of the Klingners. Goodnight, Pablo!
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 9 months old.
You and Annie both sleep in, until 7:30. Then you bustle out to tell us the light turned green. Sure enough. Dad finds you in bed and pretends you’re a baby turtle, asking you which part is your shell. Your undies, on your butt, you tell him. Also, you tell him, his skin is his shell, and when he attempts to put on a black shirt as an improvement, you correct him: it must be green. He ends up in his flamingo tank top. Nice work.
He gives you a few airplane rides and offers to fly you to the potty. You consent, and bladders are emptied and hands washed without strife. Expert dadding. He continues to play you through your morning list, and you end up downstairs with a mouth full of mango chewies in no time at all.
You ask if we can call Granddad and Susu. Of course! We do, and find them also still waking up at 8am. We show off your haircut, and you glow at Granddad’s compliments and reminders that he, too, has short hair.
You finish breakfast and head out to swing on the new little swing we’ve rigged up on the carport. Then it’s time to load up, so you do, still in cooperative mode. We listen to a story during our 7-minute commute to Spanish camp—just enough time for the first half. You ask me to carry you inside and are a bit clingy for a minute. I sing you a made-up song and enjoy your littleness in my arms. Ms. Patricia greets you, “Buenos dias, Paul. Vamos afuera!” The other kids are outside. We walk up to the door, and you tell me I can stay inside. I do while Patricia helps you all see a monarch butterfly. You’re good to go. I back out.
About your day, I know this: thunderstorms rolled in, and you all watched the rain pool in the backyard and called it a river. You celebrated a pretend birthday for Ms. Patricia. She spoke in Spanish to you, and all the children spoke English to each other.
Dad picks you up at 4:30. All four of you descend on him speaking of plans for a sleepover (we had our first a few days ago—a big hit). You have drawn a map related to this plan. He pulls the plug. “You have to make these plans with grown-ups.” True, true. You head home.
We offer you some tablet time while I finish cooking dinner. You spend time in a Spanish vocabulary app. Good on you. At some point, you sneak away to the toilet to poop solo—we find the evidence, and your pants, much later.
Dinner is salmon, noodles, and tomatoes. You eat it all and ask for an apple. Actually, you get up and say in a tiny voice, “May I be excused to get an apple?” and what are we going to say? Yes, of course. I have to pry it out of your hand to wash it. You dip pieces of your food into your milk; ew.
A bath is in order. Dad heads upstairs with you and gets you thoroughly cleaned in a rainbow bath with bubbles. Then it’s an episode and a half of Octonauts, our latest (not exactly educational but at least very wholesome) television show. You watch while I make a big calendar for us on foam board, which you’re both very interested in now so we may always know whether it’s a day we can have dessert.
I read Annie’s book first, an offense you do not forgive. You turn into a broken car (pretend) and require towing to your bed. I lay there with you while Dad finishes reading another chapter to Annie, then vamoose for his bedtime storytime. You do not go quietly, making an occasional fuss and getting out of bed (though not as much as your sister) to ask us questions and call our attention to things important to small children. It winds down by, let’s say 8, optimistically. (Posted at 7:50.)
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 8 months old.
You trot out of your room at 7:15 and climb into our bed. I meet you there. You are happy to get some only-child time and initiate a game: you are a baby chicken, and I am the mama chicken. It involves hiding in the covers and some light wrestling. “Oh, it’s Paul!” Dad says cheerfully. “No!” you correct, “I’m a baby chicken.” We transition to a game of moving mountain, where you climb on my back and rest, and then there’s an earthquake and I shake you off. We romp for maybe 20 minutes before Annie joins us. We get through the morning routine pretty easily, cheered by the prospect of chocolate croissants and egg hunts later on.
Downstairs you have a few crumbs of dried mango while I make cups of blueberries and tangerines for you to take on a run with Dad. You buckle into the stroller, and we all head down the street to the Croissant House. I wait with you outside while Dad ventures in, masked up. He comes back with pastries, and you tuck in happily while he puts on his running music and heads out. It’s a new route today through the neighborhoods since parks and trails are closed to prevent Easter crowds.
A rain shower catches you, but you deploy your shades and pick up your feet to stay dry. You spot a turtle on the sidewalk, hiding in its shell. Back home, you and Annie launch into a happy imaginary world upstairs, and Dad and I enjoy some quiet grown-up time (I use mine to write this).
Around 10:30: “Is it time for the egg hunt??” Well, sure! We decide to pick egg colors to hunt for so we can be sure to get an equal number. Yours are green, yellow, and orange. I ask for 10 minutes of patience while I stuff the eggs and hide them in the front yard, and then—the hunt begins!
Once all eggs are located, you have a treat picnic, cracking them all open and feasting on jelly beans and pez. Then, naturally, it’s time for some bouncing.
You distribute the sofa cushions around the house and jump from one to another, a frog on lilypads. You keep up the indoor play while your parents get lunch ready and Annie stuffs the eggs with bits of nature (“because grown-ups like science”) for me to hunt.
I offer you some packing material, and you turn it into another train, full of big ideas and tiny bits of things. You play some video games with Dad, then help me sew masks for our friends. Your job is to raise and lower the presser foot, and you perform it admirably.
Our cousins visit from the fence line, to say hello and allow us to trade birthday presents for Annie and Miles. Good news for you: there’s also a singing, dancing, egg-laying Easter chicken.
We say goodbye, and you suggest to Annie that since she has a new Elsa costume, her old one can be yours! She goes for it, and King and Queen Elsa eat an improvised dinner of eggs, beans, chips, and cheese. Gobka and Gamma call while we’re eating, and you enjoy a video chat. “Gobka’s pretty silly, right?”
Our bedtime books are The Jungle Book and, a current favorite of ours, Who Wet My Pants? You are administered a story by Mom, and engage in quite a bit of post-bedtime ruckus with your sister. At 8:30, you’re asleep.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 7 months old.
You burst gleefully into our room at 7:05 despite being up until 9 the night before. The light turned green! You do your morning tasks pretty cheerfully and head downstairs with Dad for breakfast, requesting 10 pancakes and eating half of them. A new bottle of vitamins delights you. Dad takes you to school.
We don’t hear much about your day but assume it’s good. I pick you up at 5, where you are burying things in the playground sand with Silas. It’s been the same story all week: shoveling up dirt to cover a traffic cone or a firetruck, and needing to do “just one more scoop” until I almost literally drag you away. Silas is changing schools at the end of this week, a goodbye we’ve worried about, not realizing we’re all about to say goodbye to pretty much everyone and the world as we know it.
We pick Annie up from the All Stars and head to the car. On our way home, Dad suggests we do a restaurant for dinner, so we head for Fresa’s. It’s a kids-run-around kind of place, but Annie’s refusal to bring her shoes home from school means she’s stuck in her chair, so you pretty much stay put, too. We share queso, and you put away two bean and cheese tacos. You make two trips to the bathroom.
We get home and have bath to address the sand on your feet and the beans on your face. Then books, story, and (finally) bed!
To Paul, this is how you spent the day you turned three and a half.
You get up at 6:30 am when thunder scares you. You and Annie run into our room, and I invite you to climb into the bed. You lean against me and watch the lightning out the window. You asked to see the “rain-yard” (radar) and I pull it up on my phone. When the storm passes I shoo you back to your bedroom, but you are very awake, so I tell you it’s okay to start on your lists if you want to and I’ll start on mine. Annie says, “I think we should play,” and that’s what you actually do.
At 7:00 you are running around to the upstairs while I make coffee. I come up and invite you to start getting ready. You deign to brush your teeth. You have put shorts on over your PJs, and I coax you into your fox sweater. Good enough. We head downstairs for a breakfast of mango chewies and banana bread. Dad is in Colorado and I have not showered—see 6:30 am thunderstorm—so I tell you and Annie you get to play while I get myself ready. You get your scissors from the cabinet and cut a piece of construction paper into tiny shards.
While I get dressed you play hide and seek. I count to 10 while you hide in the laundry basket. “I’m hiding here,” you tell me as you crawl in. I find you immediately. We do this a few times. You and Annie head downstairs to play with fire trucks while I brush my teeth. I grab the vitamins and you carry your shoes out to the car, walking barefoot in the freezing rain on principle.
In the car on the way to school, we listen to an episode of Story Pirates, a podcast involving theatrical renditions of stories submitted by children. This one, “My Family Are Tigers,” is a favorite. Then Annie tells us a long story about Laura the Giganotosaurus, and has me repeat every line after her. You ask what road signs say, and I tell you.
At school you ask me to help you put your shoes on before you get out of the car. Great choice, I tell you. We had inside and drop Annie in the All Stars before heading to the Owls. There you invite me to many hugs and to fetch you a paper towel for your breakfast. Silas is there already so you are pretty ready to join him at the breakfast table.
I’m not sure what you get up to at school, but Charly tells me when she picks you up, you are covered in mud head to toe. You ask her to take you to the treat store, but she declines due to poor listening exhibited during the last visit. And you say, “Maybe we next time we can go because we’ll be good tonight.” Your negotiation skills are coming right along.
She ask you to rinse off the layers of sand while she makes dinner. You eat and head upstairs for a bath. Once your PJs are on, she asks you to go downstairs and clean up your toys and you do. She says you made everything easy tonight. When I get home at 8:30 you are sound asleep. Today you are three and a half.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 5 months old.
You walk out of your room and cheerfully announce that the light is green. Annie is still asleep, so we close the door quietly and tiptoe out. You climb up on the bed and sit next to Dad to discuss our next steps. Putting on our new fuzzy pinks is the decision. We do it, so quietly, and get through the rest of the routine. Downstairs, you select four “mango chewies” while I microwave you some waffles. You relish your breakfast and our undivided attention until Annie wakes up around 7:40.
You’re ready for the donut run and start loading yourself in the stroller pronto. We administer your chewable vitamins and stash some extra warm clothes under the stroller, and off you go, down to the trail and around a loop to Mopac. You’re back around 9:30, and I pick a dozen sprinkles off your shirt.
You and Annie play an elaborate game of turtle-family downstairs while Dad and I shower, then we hop into the car and head out for dim sum with the Crowders. Dad buckles you in, after which you decide you want to buckle yourself. Dad declines, and you literally scream in fury for the first five minutes of our drive.
Dad, calmly: Please don’t scream in the car, Paul, it’s too loud.
Dad, calmly: Please don’t scream in the car, Paul, it’s too loud.
Dad, calmly: Please don’t scream in the car, Paul, it’s too loud.
At the restaurant, you are delighted to be seated in a GREEN booster seat, and nibble on a number of things before the pineapple cream dumpling of your dreams arrives. It’s a wonder you have any room in your tummy after our non-stop eating spree this morning, but you’re very patient through the meal. Dad takes you and Annie outside while we split the check, and we run around the corner for some bubble tea. You and Annie share some strawberry milk tea, and then officially start bouncing off the walls.
Back home, we head upstairs to play. We’re all characters in a castle, and you are also approximately 30 cars, which have terrible pile-up accidents and also come crashing against the walls one by one, creating castle-rattling earthquakes. Some individuals reform.
We head downstairs, and your playing on the coffee table when you look at me and announce cheerfully, “I’m holding it!” while tinkle runs out of your pant legs. I do not think it means what you think it means. We clean up with the usual mini-lecture. If you have to go potty, stop, and go right away—a tip you’ll whisper to Dad later in the day. You have some Dad time, playing and talking and having a snack. We all watch a couple episodes of Dinosaur Train.
Our friends the Brocks come over, and Annie whirls Poppy away for some Frozen-related activities while you mostly play solo, absorbed in your cars and the big cardboard box I have fashioned into Mater. Your cars are living in it like a big truck-shaped fortress. Later, you drag it back and forth across the house and sit on it until it comes to pieces and you tell me you don’t want it anymore “because it’s smushed.”
You play a really exciting game with other kids and the doorbell, wherein you ring it and talk to Dad and I via our phones. This goes on for some time. When dinner is ready, you sit down between Doug and Annie for grapes and steak, and ultimately a yogurt popsicle in my lap. We decide to introduce Poppy to the new Frozen short we just discovered, and you all watch 20 minutes of cartoons while we clean up the kitchen.
We say goodbye to our guests. To Poppy, you ask, “Do you want me to get close to you for you can have some of my warmth?” An offer I find sweet, but she declines. Bye, Brocks! You have been angling for a “night walk” since you heard Silas took one, so we bridge the gap to bedtime with jackets, headlamps, and a very enthusiastic walk to the end of the block and back. I talk you into the bathtub with a reminder that the turtle eggs you’ve been playing with all week are actually bath toys. You and Annie spend 15 minutes playing in the tub.
For storytime, Dad and I both get to do a rendition of Super Happy Magic Forest, and then he gives hugs, says goodbye, and heads to the airport for a standard California jaunt. You get in bed reluctantly, and I have to threaten no story to stop your disagreements and interruptions, but finally we make it through a hybrid Dinosaur-Train-meets-Frozen adventure. We’re big into fan fiction these days. I say goodnight at 7:35, and by the time Annie tiptoes out at 7:45 to tell me her ant bites are hurting, you’re already asleep.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 5 months old.
You and Annie thunder into our room when the light turns green and climb onto the bed, happy to find Dad and I in place after his California trip and your night with Charly. You make it through the morning routine with him, and more or less no tears.
It’s Cheerios and milk for breakfast, with one piece of “grownup cereal” (frosted mini-wheats) stuck in the center, its dome of hardened sugar a special prize. After breakfast, you help Dad put together his new battery-powered lawn mower—the kind of really exciting Christmas present grown-ups get for themselves.
It’s chilly outside, so we hustle to the car and drive to school. You escort Annie into her class, and we head for the Owls, where the expectation of jelly on english muffins eases the pain of separation.
It’s a normal day, as far as I know, with spaghetti and pears for lunch, and who knows, maybe even a nap. I find you at 4:45 engaged in your current favorite activity: running around on the playground turf with Fletcher and Silas. Fletcher is chasing you and tackling you. You tell me it’s “tag.” Mmhmm.
The very last thing in the world you want to do is go home. I have to carry you off the playground and all the way to the car. New construction work around your school (building the new Moody Center) has closed roads and led to disastrous traffic. So it’s a long journey home. We make the best of the time, addressing such questions as:
“What are the soldiers doing in that statue with the person with wings?”
“What are ‘peace’ and ‘freedom’?”
“What makes a boat sink?”
And of course listening to Frozen 2. Oh my goodness, yes.
Home at last, we eat a quick dinner, and you and Annie have some playtime. You make up the kitchen tower into bunk beds, complete with your blankets and pillows, and do a little ukelele practice, centered on pressing buttons on the tuner. I show you how to play a C chord. You take a shower in our bathroom and snuggle into Dad’s lap for a book.
Dad tells the bedtime story—the latest in his Smaug the Dragon series—and reminds you to keep your body in bed. And you do! Nice work, buddy.