a day in your life

You wake up at 5:30, afraid you’ve overslept and missed the green light. Still got an hour, Dad informs you. When he sees you again, you’re splayed on the ground on your squishmallow and announcing you might vomit. He feels your forehead and decides it merits a thermometer. You clock in at 102.3. So much for school! I head there with a deeply cranky Annie while you snuggle up with Dad and your Minecraft Master Builder book for the better part of an hour, learning how to make roller coasters and laying plans.

The grocery store seems like a good idea, and the car is charging at the old house, so you and Dad walk there, and you reenter for the first time. It’s been a month exactly since we moved. “I have so many memories in this house,” you say. Working it out: “No one lives here now. We live here now. No one lives here now.”

You decide on a little weeding, which excites you until you rediscover some toys in the shed. So Dad weeds. Then it’s off to the grocery store; you snag some mangos, a baguette, salmon, and breakfast kolaches. Back home, it’s time to build those roller coasters. Dad passes me the kid baton, and you give me a demonstration and then embark on a long journey through your realm while I interview someone for a job. It ends in sadness, unfortunately, as get so far from your home you can’t find it again. I set you up in our bed, and you move onto Odd Squad.

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When you burn out on screens, we pursue other projects. You scratch 100% of the black off some rainbow scratch paper while I discuss the PMBOK with some of my staff. Your fever is basically gone, and I’m done with mandatory meetings. What else can we get up to? You wrap little gifts for your best school friends, River and Emmanuel, and also one for Willa, who turns 6 on Friday. And also two for you, because by golly Annie just had a birthday and isn’t it your turn already? We put yours on the high shelf to save for August.

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We explore the backyard a bit and harvest a bamboo shoot that’s rocketing from from the ground. You peel it to feed your panda collection. We all walk to school to liberate Annie early, and you entertain Dad and I with nonsense trivia, delivered with total confidence. “3-D shapes have six dimensions. Earthquakes are the reason for tar. 100 times 100 is 10 billion.”

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You’re flagging by the time we get home, in the 90-degree heat and sun, but perk up for more Minecraft once Annie finishes her homework. She enters your shared world, and you two spend 45 minutes searching for each other, lighting beacons and setting up trails of beds to try to find each other. It doesn’t work. Dad resets the world so you can start again together. You almost immediately fly away from your island. Annie kicks you.

Dinner time! You eat the strawberries off your plate and ask to be excused to start your bath. Sure. After a soak, you get dressed, and we snuggle on the couch and chat for half an hour. It’s awfully nice. “How do you feel?” I ask. “Awesome,” you say.

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It’s just 6:45, but you’re rubbing your eyes, so I suggest we sneak off to your room and read books. I read a couple short ones at your request, and a story at Annie’s, and at 7:05 I’m backing out of the room. You sleep well.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 7 years old.

You wake up in heaven, i.e. on the sunny side of a sleepover with Eleanor, Riley, and Paul. You get straight to playing, and come down about an hour later for breakfast. We see you at 8:30, and load you up immediately for our first birthday event. Per your request, it is at the Wildflower Center with your sleepover buddies, best friend Jade, and Silas and Sage. The morning is beautiful. You all play together, more or less, and enjoy chocolate chip cookies and crystal light lemonade.

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We boogie back home for lunch and then turn right around for our next adventure: The Lion King at Bass Concert Hall. I got us great tickets in a low-covid buying spree back in the fall, hoping you’d be grown-up enough to enjoy it for your birthday. You are! You find the puppets entrancing. (Paul keeps asking, “is this really happening?” and you answer, “yes, Paul!”)

Listening to a birthday message from Lisa, Eric, Miles, and Lyla. They're singing to you.
Listening to a birthday message from Lisa, Eric, Miles, and Lyla. They’re singing to you.

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Three hours later, we head home. Gamma slipped your birthday gift to us during our trip to Kerrville, so we video-call them and you open it. It’s a science experiment kit—perfect. We set up in the lab and make emulsions with oil, water, and a series of other ingredients. You carefully log procedures and findings in your lab book.

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Dinner is again your selection: mac and cheese, raspberries, cucumber slices. You’ve decided you don’t like cake, so Dad got you an ice cream cake instead, and you administer your own candles. We sing. You try not to smile. You blow out your candles. “I made a wish,” you declare, “I wished for my family to be happy.” You like knowing the right answers.

We wrap things up with a bath and a story from a book you got today: 5-minute Stories for Fearless Girls. Right up your alley, big kid.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 5 years and 7 months old.

You get right up and at ’em, bustling into our bedroom and requesting jewelry for a treasure box/dragon’s hoard you’re working on. “I don’t like Minecraft anymore,” you announce. “Actually, I want to play Minecraft right now.” Okay, buddy. Breakfast first. Chocolate pancakes? Sure.

Once you’re fed and watered, we go ahead and authorize Minecraft so we can concentrate on packing for stage 1 of our house move. You start world-building on the couch. “Oh hi, Granddad,” when he arrives, “Want to watch?”

at work on your treasure chest/breakfast
at work on your treasure chest
at work on your lava house
at work on your lava house

I take you and Annie to gymnastics, and you get some wiggles out, tipping over and hamming it up during the stretches. I watch you walk the high beam three times in a row.

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We drive through El Tacorrido for tacos (bean and cheese for you, naturally), and head to the new house. The grown-ups pack and carry and unpack while you eat and play on your tablet until its battery runs out.

Ready to play in the real world, you and Annie set up a store in your room and sell toys for two-finity kajillion dollars. Mardi Gras coins accepted. Your own customers satisfied, you volunteer for a Costco trip with Dad to stock our fridge with the essentials (i.e. ALL the berries). Dad calls halfway through the trip to discuss a special present he’s considering, and we agree it’s appropriate for our first night in the new house: giant Squishmallows. You select a dog, whose given name Gris you pronounce in Spanish and then replace with “Paul,” and later “Gruff.” He is enormous.

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Back dare-I-say home, you unload, eat half a dozen oranges and animal crackers, and snuggle into your Squishmallows to watch some Odd Squad while the moving continues around you. You take a brief break for dinner (mac and cheese) and wrap up the day with more Minecraft.

It’s bedtime, and we’re sleeping in the new house for the first time. Dad and Granddad have brought over the mattresses from your beds, and Annie has made them up nicely with all the right blankets and lovies. I lie down on the twin mattress that came with the house and read you The Jungle Book and Gertrude McFuzz, and Dad tags in for more Dr. Seuss. “Oh my goodness!” you exclaim at the picture of Gertrude’s tail feathers.

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Annie arranges fairy lights “like stars” and we turn the room lights all the way off. You pop out for a quick potty visit, but all is quiet by 8. Did we just move? Yes we did.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 11 months old.

You wake me up today, strolling in at 6:45 to find me bleary-eyed in bed. You keep me gentle company through my first half-cup of coffee, and we go downstairs as the pancakes are coming out of the pan. I brush and braid your hair while you eat. You put on your socks and read the morning announcements, imitating school:

“I pledge allegiance, to the flag, one nation, under god…I pledge allegiance, to the Texas flag… For lunch today, there will be bean and cheese tacos, and fresh apple slices. Remember to be safe, kind, and respectful.”

One second later, you step on a garter snake. Everyone is fine.
One second later, you step on a garter snake. Everyone is fine.

We walk to school, talking about the value of coins, and which presidents are on which bills, and what they did, and why is it all boys again?? Dad walks you and Paul to the door. The district made masks optional this week: you’re still sporting your N95 while Paul is happily coughing unimpeded on his classmates.

The main learning activity today is GROUP PROJECTS, creating habitat dioramas. You are working with Asma and Roalbert (my favorite name in your class), building a pond in a shoebox. Your work is not living up to your standards, but you seem to be rolling with it. Each group member has an animal for the habitat: yours is a snapping turtle. You also visit the library, one of your favorite places, and go to music class, where you’re singing about kindness.

In Creative Action, everyone works together to paint a paper mache dragonfly. You tell me later that getting paint on your shirt is the worst part of your day (your “thorn”). I pick you up a bit late, at 5:20, and we drive home to get to our Chinese take-out dinner while it’s hot.

You assign yourself one chunk of rice per math problem completed.
You assign yourself one chunk of rice per math problem completed.

You’re in good spirits through dinner, disemboweling dumplings and refilling their skins with rice. Your auspicious fortune reads, “A happy event will take place in your home.” Never bad news! We work our way through a little homework, and then you announce a Dance Off upstairs, and run off to set the stage.

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There’s not much dancing at the Dance Off, but the instrumentals and the puppet show are fabulous. Paul loses interest and goes to play a mountain biking video game. You invite me to the stage for some yoga moves, and sing me a lullaby. We call Susu to find out the name of an app with peaceful noises. Dad tags in for some shadow puppetry and reads you The Berenstain Bears: The Messy Room.

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You get your teeth brushed and some clothes changed, but aren’t quite ready to climb into bed. You try Paul’s instead. The price of admission is to write a fact on his chalkboard. You write, “I love you, Paul.” He disputes whether this is a fact, and you engage in debate. Finally he issues you a ticket, and I say goodnight as you climb aboard.

Ten minutes later, you’re back in your own bed, calling each other names—in other words, ready to sleep. Goodnight for real!

a day in your life

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

We stagger into your half-birthday Saturday after a rough night with a stomach bug. You started puking up blueberries at 9pm, and had bouts until 2:30, when you said in your sweet exhausted voice, “The good thing is: my covid test was negative.” A comfort to us all. At 7:30, you begin to stir in your sleeping bag on top of Annie’s bare mattress, and start the day with a soapy bath and a carton of chocolate milk.

Us, two hours before you start vomiting. Let's just say I'm staying hydrated in preparation...
Us, two hours before you start vomiting. Cool cool cool.

We continue our campaign to swab everything with bleach wipes, and Dad mixes up cupcakes under your supervision. Annie declares her intention to give you a present for your half-birthday, and she and I pick through the bags of soft things still in prolonged lice quarantine in the hatch of my car to find her chosen gift. It’s a purse that turns into a cradle, crocheted by my great-aunt 30+ years ago and one of Annie’s favorite lovey-carriers. And now it is yours! A cozy nest for your new collection of bizarre figurines handed down from cousin Miles. Annie seeds it with one named “Blue Eyeball” to give you the idea. You are pleased.

Annie shows you how your new purse works while Blue Eyeball looks on.
Annie shows you how your new purse works while Blue Eyeball looks on.

We decide against gymnastics class, cancel social plans, and suit up for a day of video games on the couch. You wipe down the controller and launch Astro’s Playroom, which you complete, again. “Thanks for all your help, Daddy!” Dad and Annie head to Cruzteca for breakfast tacos and chicken soup; you stick to more chocolate milk.

Your forehead’s hot, so I check your temperature, and get, from various spots on your forehead: 100.4, 101.5, 102, and 104.2. I hate digital thermometers. Anyway, you have a fever. A nap is the thing. You request a pillow fort to sleep in, and curl up while Annie hovers around you, and we make valentines.

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

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

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 10 months old.

At 6:35, you’re asleep in your bed, with Paul at your side. I climb up and squash between you. You challenge me to guess your favorite page in the Usborne Science Dictionary you’ve slept with: I guess animals, but it’s food groups. We review the two kinds of carbohydrates. You tell me your tummy sort of hurts. Let’s get some food in you! Surprise, it’s chocolate chip pancakes. Fourth day in a row.

As we prepare to leave the house, you decide your pants will not do, and head upstairs to change into a different pair of leggings with a hole in the knee. Surprisingly, this does not address your greivance of being too cold. A large, hooded, puffy jacket is also inadequate. You creep down the sidewalk as slowly as possible, a deep scowl on your face. I try to maintain a gravitational pull forward without getting too far ahead or paying you too much attention. Sous helpfully poops, giving me an excuse to loiter 10 feet in front of you, looking at something else. You inch closer.

“I have SO MANY THINGS TO COMPLAIN ABOUT!” you exclaim. “I wanted to have VITAMINS.”

“I can hear that you’re really unhappy,” I say sympathetically, right out of a parenting book.

Complaint issued, you muster the strength to go on. We pick up our pace, trotting a bit with Sous and eventually catching up to Dad and Paul. By the time we arrive at school, you are cheerful again, and highly motivated to get through the door before the bell rings, crowd of kindergarten acquaintences be damned. (“Pirates law,” Dad declares. “Wait for no one.”)

At school you begin science experiments to see if a lettuce leaf will stay crisper in salt or fresh water (your hypothesis: fresh) and if water will stay in a sealed bag or evaporate (stay). Science is your favorite, and this is right up your alley. It’s music today, and you play a singing game called “Doggy doggy, where’s your bone.” You explain the rules to me on the way home; they sound elaborate.

You do not appreciate being secretly photographed. Fair point.
You do not appreciate being secretly photographed. Fair point.

A few minutes after 5, we parents roll up to your afterschool portable, and you slip out the door. We get you packed up and start our walk home. Tomorrow is a planning day for teachers, so this Thursday night feels Friday-ish, and we make big plans for video games and popcorn after dinner and homework. Your homework all week has been writing valentines to each of your classmates—homemade, with “a positive message.” It’s been sweet hearing you craft messages to some of your friends about what you like about them. “I like how Margaret comes by my desk every morning and says hi.”

Margaret is not destined to receive that message, however, because when we arrive home, all your will to work melts away into fury and despair. Dad tries every positive, supportive trick in his book, but your dedication to not writing a single letter is ironclad. Twenty or so minutes later, you both come down, and Dad announces that “video night” is OFF. Poor Paul bursts into earnest tears.

A proposal is made: a timer will be set for 5 minutes, during which time you will work on your g-d valentines. After a few false starts during which you intentionally write letters incorrectly and slowwwly erase them, you manage to crank one out.

Oh Margaret, you'll never know how she really appreciates you.
Oh Margaret, you’ll never know how she really appreciates you.

We all declare victory and eat dinner with relief. Then, sure fine, video games. Paul plays Astro’s Playroom and you continue to add to your Minecraft rosebush palace. We all hang out in the dark, engaged in our own pursuits (I’m writing this) and chatting aimiably. Screens for the win.

showing me your pet zombie you've trapped
Proudly showing me the pet zombie you’ve trapped. “They eat dead owl’s blood, I gotta say.”

It’s bedtime, thank god, and it’s a totally smooth ride. Okay, not the best day ever, but we made it.

allowance

We started giving the kids an allowance this year. I confess it’s mostly to help us quit impulse-buying them junk to bribe them through shopping trips. Now, we can fend off their pleas with Lessons About Fiscal Responsibility! Cool!

The biggest obstacle to the whole enterprise had been our complete inability to keep cash on hand, especially small bills suitable for allowances. We’ve had to keep stealing back and reusing the same $5 for tooth fairy visits. So we decided to do what any sensible parent in 2022 would do: become their online bank.

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I’m sure you can immediately sense the beauty and craftsmanship of this spreadsheet, but let me highlight some of its features, just in case:

  • Their $5 allowances are deposited into three funds: one for saving, one for giving, and one for spending.*
  • Balances are automatically calculated based on the previous week’s totals. All we need to input are withdrawals, which appear in red.
  • Conditional formatting highlights the current week.
  • Calculations into the future allow easy look-ups for when they can afford that super-cool train set they saw at Costco, or their first Dogecoin.
  • When withdrawals are made from the spend fund, the notes field allows us to creepily track every purchase. This helps them become accustomed to the surveillance economy they will inherit.

*We heard about this split on a podcast or something; it sounded cool. Annie has already stated her intention to donate her “give” fund to a Deer Rescue organization.

Who is enjoying this more: Annie in her rad new hat with ears that perk up when she squeezes a pump, or me reading “A Beginner’s Guide to General Ledgers”? It’s really hard to say.

a day in your life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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