Oh yeah, we are now in THE ZONE for the Thinkery.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years and 1 month old.
You are still testing the stay-in-bed limits, and Dad fields a wee-hours potty request. You have correctly identified potty needs as the trump card. When the light turns green, you charge into our bathroom as I’m getting out of the shower, and our day officially begins. Somehow you both end up swaddled like babies in your old muslins. It’s hard to explain.
We make it downstairs for breakfast—more banana muffins you helped bake on Sunday, and fruit, and a bonus bowl of cold oatmeal. You strut to the car carrying the vitamins, and Dad buckles you in. We talk and tell stories and ask questions all the way to school. Your classroom was temporarily relocated yesterday after a burst pipe rendered the floor unsafe, so we drop you in the ex-Sea-Turtles class right by the entrance. The Owls have all moved in, and you seem happy to be back there. There’s a library loft! We have a hug, and you insist on kissing both my cheeks, and then my legs. Yep.
Other than the new classroom, it’s a typical day at school. Lunch—I laugh now to notice since I just served the exact same thing for dinner—is spinach quiche. You nap. The afternoon on the playground must have been fun, because your feet are FILTHY when you come home. Dad finds you at 5, working enthusiastically on some dot art. He lets you hop on the stumps by the door, and then you head home.
You must have missed your last potty trip because you have an enormous accident in the car on the way home. Dad strips down the carseat and tries to mop your pee out of the perforated leather while I sponge off your legs and butt. Mmmm, dinner time! Unsurprisingly to me now, you are not very enthusiastic about the spinach quiche on your plate, but you scarf your strawberries and eat black beans by the handful. “What’s in this quiche?” you ask, and then answer yourself, “Eggs and cheese and BOOTY.”
After you handle every piece of pepperoni on the serving dish, Dad works in a pro-parenting lesson on not touching food and silverware you aren’t going to use. You end up with three spoons, somehow. You relish our full attention as Annie lies down on the couch—she spiked a fever this morning and has been home and pitiful all afternoon.
You are extremely dirty. I convince you to go upstairs for a bath, and you convince me to crawl like a turtle with you to get there. The tub is a blast.
We complete our grooming rituals, and when you and I return to your room, we find Annie there in bed. It’s 6:45. I sit so she can see the pictures and start reading our new Baby Mercy book from Aunt Peanut. You sit in my lap, only a little squirmy, then pick out three more books and allow Dad to read a couple. He tells you the story of Hansel and Gretel, and says goodnight when, wow!, it’s still just 7:15.
And you’re quiet for 20 minutes, and then you emerge and tell me you have to go potty, even though you peed literally half an hour ago, but what am I gonna do? Walk with you to the bathroom, that’s what. You pee a tablespoon, and then get back in bed, and then request a BIG hug, and to kiss both of my cheeks. Smack, smack. And my forehead. Smack. And my nose. Smack. You chuckle. “That’s a hard one, right?” Right, Paul. Right.
To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 4 years and 5 months old.
You and Paul are full of energy this morning, bursting out of your room and giggling under our bed. We keep it playful, and I “find” you there again and again. Your morning list proves difficult to execute with your body under the bed, so I build an Annie out of your clothes and accessories on the floor, and when you’re ready to emerge, you put them on. A special surprise is a new bracelet I’ve strung with for your unicorn charm.
Breakfast downstairs is banana muffins and fruit, and then you load up in the car for a Dad ride to school. He’s playing the Lion King soundtrack; you approve. Dad and Paul drop you in the All Stars, where you eat yet more muffins and fruit for breakfast and check your correspondence. You and your friends have been making piles of notes and pictures for each other the last couple of weeks, and your art drawer is full of them.
The Spanish teacher comes to your class, and you and your classmates sing the “Buenos Dias” song, adorably.
Lunch is “pizzadillas” with canned pineapple and corn. You eat most of it, and, according to the records, actually nap for a couple of hours.
Your afternoon is a mystery, but scattered rain storms might have spiced it up for you. Thanks also to that rain, it takes me 40 minutes to drive from my building to get you, so you and Paul are the last two at the Center, hanging out with Principal Paula at the front when I roll in at last.
Fortunately, traffic on the highway has eased up by 6:15 when we get there, so it’s a pretty quick trip home. We have a nice, chatty dinner together, as you munch on fruit and eat your cheese into the shape of the sun and moon. You’ve been learning about the planets at school, and we talk about them, and how they also have moons, and how many. Paul poops and we all have a jelly bean. At 7 we head upstairs to get ready for bed. You are sucking your jelly bean into oblivion and thus reluctant to brush your teeth. So we do everything else, and have a nice long hairbrush, and you whisper in my ear about your nightmares last night. “One was a shark, and one was a wolf.” We talk about how dreams are one way your brain makes sense of everything it’s learned and done that day, but thank goodness they’re not real. You brush your teeth.
We’ve missed the reading time Dad has had with Paul, so you climb right into bed for a story. You request one about, no joke, poop eating poop. I manage to work in a unicorn and, for the happy ending, a very well-fertilized forest.
We loved seeing Aunt Peanut and Uncle Dan this weekend.
Here’s a recipe we experimented our way to in the instant pot.
Weeknight Braised Chicken
Total time: 1 hour
- 2 slices bacon
- 1 onion, coarsely chopped
- 4-5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 c red wine
- 2 c chicken broth
- Chicken legs (3-4) or drumsticks (6-8), seasoned with salt and pepper
- Handful of parsley or other herbs
- Handful of baby carrots, or other vegetables
- 1 c frozen peas
Plug in that pot. On saute (medium), render the bacon and cook the onions and garlic in the drippings. Deglaze with red wine, and add the chicken, herbs, vegetables, and broth.
Pressure cook on high for 13 minutes, or up to 17 if using big, whole legs—recalling it will take 20 minutes to heat up and start. Manually release the pressure. Remove the chicken legs and vegetables to eat. Strain and de-fat the broth, and use some to warm up the peas.
We went to the Dallas aquarium. My favorite piece of new knowledge is that Annie calls slushies: flushies.
To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 3 years old.
You and Annie come out and tell me it’s my turn to turn off the green light. Thanks, guys. In return, Dad and I share the exciting news that it’s your birthday. You had forgotten.
We have a quick snuggle, and I turn you loose to get ready with Dad. He teaches you how to pee standing up. MILESTONE.
You get dressed in the greenest shirt that’s still clean, and then switch to a different one, and then switch to your orange tie-dyed Panda shirt, and some camouflage socks because why not. Then it’s downstairs for a pile of blueberries, a peach, and some mini-pancakes—pretty much your perfect breakfast. You finish up, wash your hands unprompted, and ask if you can play for a minute. You race cars around the coffee table while the rest of us finish our preparations. Your special day nets you the privilege of carrying the vitamins out to the car. We pass them out once everyone is buckled in.
On the way to school, Annie asks for a story, and I hem and haw before proposing the one on my mind: how Paul was born. I hit the high points for you and field a number of mechanical questions. You enjoy the story but are disappointed to learn that you will not have a baby in your tummy one day. I feel disappointed, too, on your behalf.
At school, you open the door by yourself and head inside. You hand over a small baggie of jelly beans that Ms. Natalie will pass out as treats (one each) for your birthday in the afternoon, and tell her about the most important part of your weekend: “Yesterday I had TURTLE CAKE AND TURTLE CUPCAKES.” You say goodbye to us as you pick up a paper towel for second-breakfast. Oranges and cheerios.
It’s a typical day at school, by all accounts, other than welcoming a couple of new Pandas to the class, and of course your jelly bean distribution. You nap with your doggie and eat well. I pick you up at 4:15, and you leap into my arms. On the way to the car, you ask, “Mom, could you hear me talking when you were at work?” I love the stuff I have to explain to you.
You wear your birthday crown all the way home, and at 4:30 I tell you you’re EXACTLY three. Annie tells you that because you’re three now, she’s going to teach you something new tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Dad scoops you up at home and asks for your consultation on dinner. You decline the pizza restaurant in favor of mac and cheese at home, and when things get a little too rowdy for constructive cooking, take in a few happy episodes of Peppa Pig. At the dinner table, you demolish your mac and cheese and are delighted when I stick candles in your leftover turtle cake, and we sing to you again. You blow out the candles like a pro, have a few nibbles, and ask to save the rest of it for breakfast.
Afterward, you hustle to the bathroom to wash your hands so you can open your last birthday present—the rest we have trickled out over the prior two days, so you could have them for your pool party and also as motivators for various desired behaviors, SORRY. You are super excited about this one—three construction vehicles you can take apart and put back together with a working drill, nuts, and bolts. Big fun. You execute capably under Dad’s tutelage, and enter another elaborate pretend world with Annie, involving home-building and the cast of Cars.
Time marches on. It’s time to bathe, and Dad gets you washed pretty cheerfully in a green-tinted (turtle) bath while Annie showers on my watch. I help you into some undies with Cookie Monster on them, but you ask me to pretend it’s really Mater. We read a sweet short book together, Our Car, and then dabble in some baby-book selections while Annie veers into mania. Neither of you want to get in bed, but after a last pee and a countdown from 5, you manage it. I do my best to spread your blanket on you with NO WRINKLES. Dad gives you another rendition of The Tortoise and the Hare and sings you a song about Lightning McQueen. I see you once more about 10 minutes later, when Annie summons me. You tell me you’re almost a grown-up, and when you’re a grown-up, will I still be a grown-up? Yes.
“Yes, we’ll all be grown-ups together.”
“But,” adds Annie, “They’ll have lots of wrinkles on their face.”
True enough. Goodnight, kiddo.