a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 8 months old.

You arrive at my side in the living room chair at 6:35, making gentle peeping noises. You’ve gotten dressed and are ready for some morning comfort. Annie arrives a couple minutes later bearing the Norse mythology book, and we pick up where we left off the night before, with the tale of Thor and the jotun Hymir. Dad fills out a waiver for the City of Austin swim lessons you’ll start during school next week, and makes chocolate chip pancakes. We finish up The Death of Balder over breakfast.


Yesterday you and Annie received new digital watches, with pedometers, and you’re fascinated by your step count. You run in place and do laps around the kitchen island to boost your score, and we head out early on the walk to school to log as many as you can. On Sunset you hand me your backpack in order to demonstrate your top speed.

Dad and Annie catch up with us here, and we proceed to school, making our usual check of the mulberry tree for any ripe berries (still not quite). A step count check finds you with the family lead, at 1500 or so steps. Your spirits are high.


Annie asks you to stay with us on the final stretch to school instead of running ahead as you’ve begun to do. We meet your friend Dean with his mom and brother, dismounting from their bikes, and you happily hook up with them and show off your watch. You vanish ahead of us, absorbed into the student scrum.

You burst out of the gym after school, full of song, and eager to compare step counts. I’ve got an edge on you thanks to a jog, but at least you’re ahead of Annie, who studiously does not care. We rack up a few hundred more on the walk home, and you and Dad adjorn immediately for the tennis courts. Tennis is your latest obsession, and you’re out there as often as we’ll agree to a game.


You watch some videos on your tablet (the Epic app, one from school that’s full of fascinating facts about sea creatures, among other things) while Dad and I dive back under for a final round of workday. Annie opens her last birthday present, a book from Granddad and Susu that I’ve wrapped whimsically in a streamer. You chase the streamer around like a cat.

We got to Homeslice for dinner, and sit on the patio in the beautiful weather. You and I play a dozen games of tic tac toe on your kids menu, and you shape your complimentary dough ball into a person (my selection) and a little doggy (yours). We discover there is a fully-stocked ping pong table now in the back, so you get a bonus round of racket sports. Annie works on her photography skills with you as her subject.



A lemon ice tops off your tummy, and we head home for a bath. Dad executes one with major bubbles, and you get squeaky clean. He reads to you from a book about sea creatures, though you tune in now and then to Annie’s bedtime story of Ragnarok (soothing!). We say goodnight to the two of you, piled together into your bed for the final descent.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 8 years old.

Birthdays are emotional, I tell you what. For me and Dad (8 years ago we were what???), for you, for Paul…all the feelings. Paul comes out of your bedroom and collapses in a heap of fuss at the breakfast table. You spend 15 minutes in your room, picking your outfit, grooming, preparing for your day. (“I look perfect today,” you tell me later.) By the time you emerge, Dad has taken Paul for a game of tennis with head lamps to cheer him up, and you find a stack of chocolate chip pancakes on your plate. They’re sort of a murkey aqua color from the rainbow sprinkles I stirred in. You tuck in while reading Dog Man.

You are very sensitive to Paul’s distress about your special day. “Paul’s birthday was really hard for me,” you tell me quietly. You let him choose when you open presents, and agree on one this morning. I recommend it—one that has a little something for him, too. We leave for school with your two new little bird lovies flying along beside us.



As usual, Paul runs ahead once we get to school grounds. We say goodbye to him, and you take Dad’s hand and mine, and walk between us to the front door. Hugs all around and wishes for a happy day. You tell me that at 10:30, during reading, you told your friends you were now 8 years old. Later, you share chocolate chip cookies with the class, and save one for Paul.

Usually on Mondays you go to an afterschool art club for an hour, but today I pick you both right up so you can play at the park with some friends. On your way out, you open another present. ROLLER SKATES, from Gobka and Gamma. We lace them up, and you do a few slippery laps around the kitchen.


Donning your birthday crown and sash, you head to meet best-friend Alex in the park, and invite her back home. She tidies up the loft and bangs around on the piano; you enjoy her company. At 4:20 she says goodbye, and you do some epic building in Minecraft while I attend a last meeting and Dad cooks mac and cheese for dinner.

We eat. Gobka and Gamma call to sing to you. We present you with a birthday cake, a treasured family recipe that shall remain nameless, made by your cousin Lyla. You eat a few bites, regretfully inform us you no longer like this cake, and eat a popsicle instead. (We are not to tell Lyla lest we hurt her feelings. It was, in actual fact, delicious.)

(Your birthday wish is to be together again with all your friends in class next year, and no one leaves.)

Dad and Paul adjourn to the tennis courts, again. You open another present—a drawing instruction book from Granddad and Susu, which you declare “very cool,” and read a bit more Dog Man. Then it’s time for some additional roller skating through all rooms of the house. You hold onto my arm and are very careful of my toes.


I start a bath for Paul, and you convince Dad to read you some Norse mythology. You’re deep into the D’aulaires tales and going strong. He keeps reading through your bath as well, and into bedtime. You settle in to rest, and we say goodnight at 7:40ish.

THUMP. Twenty minutes later, you’re back in the living room.

“Mom, I don’t like it when the light is off. Today at school we watched a movie with a chupacabra in it, and now I’m scared of it.”

Back on goes the light. You climb into Paul’s bed for company, with another Dog Man book to read and your favorite Christmas sweater on for comfort. You are a girl who knows what she needs, and my god, I love you so much.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 7 months old.

It’s Sunday, and Dad’s in charge! Today’s big adventure: the ice skating rink. You’re there at opening hour. Annie has some emotional demons to overcome, but she musters her courage, so you all make it in. The rink is in a mall Dad knows from childhood.


After the requisite skating, you pile in the car to head home. I make it home by 3 after a night away, and find you ready for more fun. Specifically, you are interested in the water balloons recently obtained from Costco. It’s over 70 by a hair, and I have some parenting to catch up on, so I agree.




Things proceed in the inevitable fashion. I agree to refill another load when all the balloon shards are accounted for, which is moderately successful at getting you to clean them up. You have a joyful time, then suddenly become hypothermic. More body fat required!

We take it easy after that. Dinner, a little TV, the usual bedtime drill. Here comes Monday, on with the week.

a day in your life

To Annie:

This is how you spent the day you turned 7 years and 11 months old.

You sleep a bit late, but emerge in good spirits for a breakfast of mini-pancakes. You settle into the breakfast nook with your current Cat Kid read.


We leave on our walk to school. You sneak your hand into mine, and we talk. Dad practices identifying birdsong. As you approach the school, Paul takes off running, preferring to do the last stretch on his own. You walk along with Dad, conscientious about his feelings.

I hope it’s a good day at school—we don’t hear otherwise. You meet us both at pick-up, and walk to front of school so Paul can spend quarters on a sticker and pencil. We pass first-grade teacher Ms. Colston, who complements your Christmas sweater. It’s always the right season.

On our walk home, I tell you that Granddad and Susu’s friend Ron has died. You want to know how, and how old he was. I tell you. Later, you confess you don’t remember what he looked like and ask to see a picture. Then you remember.

Can you go to the park? Of course. You hook up with Alex there. It’s a beautiful afternoon. You come in for a few minutes, and you make her a package, wrapped in orange felt and fastened with tape, for her to open later. You play back at the park until 5, and say goodbye.


You agree to a 10-minute trial of a Pokemon movie for movie night, and it takes. When the main character sets his butterfly Pokemon free to pursue its destiny, you wipe tears from your eyes. We pause for dinner—a leftover slice of pizza and steamed broccoli—and pile back into a snuggle stack on the couch for the dramatic conclusion.

It’s bedtime. You brush your teeth and change clothes without complaint, then hand me Framed to read. I do a chapter and say goodnight at 7:30. Paul comes out at 8, and you follow, escorting him back to bed. I see you again at 8:30. “I have a piece of the braces wax in my hair,” you inform me. Ms. Ruiz pulled another one out of your hair earlier in the day. “I was afraid it was a beetle.” I trim it out. “Thanks for your help, Mom.” You climb back into bed.

a day in your life

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

It’s Sunday, and sunny. You launch into the day with some snuggles and games of Pokemon on your tablet. When tablet time ends, you transition to real live chess with Granddad, who’s concluding a weekend visit.



We’re ready to move our bodies a bit, and it’s warmed up enough for a bike ride. We suit up and head out to the trail, making a visit to our Stroller Years brick. Your trail-bike etiquette continues to be top-notch, despite your occasional speed demon impulses.


For the afternoon, we’ve invited your friend (girlfriend? affianced? Annie tells me you’ve kissed ON THE LIPS) Vera over to play. You play for a bit and then are looking for a project. Vera persuades me to make her a cardboard leopard to color while you complete Valentines cards for your classmates at breakneck pace. “I LOVE YOU MAYA” is your go-to, and “I PIKA-CHOOSE YOU” for your special friends and fellow Pokemon-lovers.


The day ends quietly—or perhaps I’ve just forgotten the rest. It was a good one.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 7 years and 10 months old.

You’re eating pancakes-by-Dad at the breakfast table when I meet you, dressed and ready, and humbly requesting a little Harry Potter 5 reading. I oblige for a page or two, and we pack up to go. It’s chilly, so you put on your big coat, and we walk to school through the wreckage of trees left from last week’s ice storm.


It’s almost a normal day at school, but at recess you stand up fast under the play structure and take a small gouge of skin out of your back. Nurse Ray at school patches you up. I see you again at 3:10 (after a meeting with the Principal about the school yearbook), and we load up into the CRV for a short drive home.

You’re excited to start working on Valentines for your class and make a few for your favorite friends. Your afternoon screen time involves some instructional videos for healthy recipes, and you bring me to the kitchen to show me how you’ve set up the materials for a seasonal treat: PBJ sandwiches with apples for bread and shapes cut in the middle with cookie cutters. You are proud and so am I. We build a couple together and eat them while Dad sears a steak for dinner.

You decline to eat that steak—“I’d like it if I didn’t know it came from an animal”—but do enjoy a roll, some fruit, and a single shred of cabbage. You and Paul negotiate which movie to watch. Your hardline Harry Potter stance wins the day, and we hit the couch for the first half of the second movie.


At 7:10, we stop for the night and move onto tooth hygiene. You do a good brush and open your mouth, nervously but obligingly, for a turn of the expander crank. At your request, I take a picture of the wound on your back for your inspection. It’s moderately gross.


You climb into bed, and I bring up the “grandmother books” to read. We start with Carolyn, and recall how your whistling skills and love of rolls are likely due to her. You hug all the pictures of Granddad, and remember that Nancy is the great aunt I visited a few weeks ago. I promise to read you the Jeanie book tomorrow, and hug you goodnight. Goodnight!

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 5 months old.

It’s Thursday. You decided on waffles with syrup for breakfast, and then some berries. I read a bit of Harry Potter 5 at Annie’s request, and you’re inspired to do a little playing with our Lego Hogwarts. We completed it with great triumph a few days ago, and you keep taking a few pieces off and putting them back on to replay the joy. “Mom, we’re almost done! I’m so excited to finish!”


Teeth brushed, shoes on, backpacks loaded, and we head out the door. You’ve selected your sneakers due to an upcoming footrace at recess. “The Flash team had a race today, racing Vera, so she’s NOT going to win.” Vera remains your favorite girl friend. Her team, with a few other girls, is the Boots team. Oh, and there’s also a Speedy Runners team with some of the older boys, that’s actually the fastest.


We walk to school through a beautiful sunrise, with a waning half moon presiding that you’re pretty sure you can see moving. You administer hugs to us Dad and I and head inside. It’s a normal day as far as we hear; Art with Ms. Isoline for seasoning.

Dad picks you up, and I get to see you on your way home as I head to the school for PTA. Your legs “don’t work,” so you ride piggyback most of the way. Thank goodness for strong dads.



Back at home, you and Annie take up your tablets and build worlds in Minecraft until I come home and Dad finishes his workday. Then you tear around with balloons from your chemistry sets. You blow yours up and let it fly around the kitchen while I assemble some dinner for us.

It’s tacos. Chewing, you inform us that you always use one side of your mouth for fruit, and the other one for meat and vegetables. Annie validates this as making sense for you, “fruit monster” that you are.

It’s a bath night, and we’ve recently decided that group baths have run their course, so you take your turn first. I help you dry and dress as Annie rolls through. You get settled in bed for book, vigorously protesting against more Harry Potter. A compromise is reached: a page of HP5 for Annie, and a book of your choice. Your choice is Noah’s Magic Shoes, about a boy whose new pair of shoes changes his outlook on life. We have a little extra time so round it out with the spooky A House That Once Was. You and Annie chatter for half an hour, and fall asleep.

a day in your life

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 7 years and 9 months old.

It’s the first day back to school after the longest winter break in the history of the world. You two are excited. We’re all excited. Dad reminds you through breakfast that the time is going to move quickly and we need to keep up the pace. Twenty-five minutes until we walk out the door. “Mom, do we have time to make chocolate pancakes?” We do. Fifteen minutes until we walk out the door. “Can I wrap a present for Alex?” Okay, why not. “Mom, are my leopard socks clean?” I’ll check; you brush your teeth.

We make it out the door on time and have a lovely, lovely walk to school. We discuss the moon phase (waning gibbous), and you tuck your hands into my sleeve for warmth. We converge on the school with many other relieved-looking families, right at the first bell. You give Dad and I both hugs and go on your way.

You report a normal day. Your teacher was there, and you were most excited to see Alex, who loved her gift (a squishmallow). Dad picks you up at 3:10 and walks home. He lets you start screen time while he sits back in front of his own for more meetings. You pick video games on the big screen: DragonQuest and Lego Harry Potter. I’m home late-ish from the office, so we let it go a little long.



Cooking feels hard, so we drive over to Home Slice for a quick dinner. You enjoy a slice of cheese pizza and the meatball bits Paul picks off of his. It’s a beautiful night, 72 and low humidity. We all enjoy sitting outside and chatting about nothing in particular.

We drive home while you entertain us with some experimental humor (what’s funny and why is of great interest to you right now). You decide we’re going to do some family yoga, and Dad notches a lifetime accomplishment by teaching you sun salutations out of his 20-year-old Ashtanga book.


It’s 6:45, and you elect to head to bed early for more reading time in Harry Potter 5. We finally finished the 4th book and watched the movie last week, and you’re extremely motivated to get into this one. It is definitely too mature for you, but I’m counting on your interest to wane before it gets traumatizing. You hold the light for me while I read. At 7:30; I say goodnight and climb down from your loft. I see you twice more when you come out for water and then later to tell me politely that you can hear the video I’m watching on Twitter. Note taken.

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 Annie: this is what happened on the day you turned 7 years and 8 months old.

You and Paul sleep in until about 7, giving me time to get deeply into poster making for the Cultural Festival later this morning. When you do get up, you give me a hug and launch pretty seamlessly into panda play in the backyard. Sweet. I head up to the school while you hang out with Dad for another hour.

You’re among the first to arrive at the Cultural Festival, my favorite school event so far. Families from the school have set up tables in the hallways with games and toys and clothes and food from their countries’ cultures. You and Paul make your first stop at Mexico and play a game of loteria. Next up is Australia, where Juke of Juke’s Auto Repair (and Australia) explains boomerangs and plays a didgeridoo. We move onto the Travis High School mariachi band’s performance in the cafeteria, and pick out some hand-painted ornaments in the holiday market, made of recycled light bulbs and sold by 3rd-grade-teacher Ms. Etzel.

"Mom, can I?"
“Mom, can I?”

You pull me back into the hallway to try some jalebi from the Afghanistan table—it looks like a funnel cake and hits the spot. I sample some excellent tea, and almost get tears in my eyes seeing all the Afghani fathers in their traditional dress dishing out an elaborate buffet of homemade food. We snag passport stamps from Colombia, Canada, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Panama, and Brazil, where you go back for seconds of pao de queijo. I bring Dad back half a Guatemalan tamale, and we watch the school choir.


You head home with Dad and set up an animal rescue facility in your room. I visit you there when I arrive, and submit for your care a stuffed cow I found limping on the road and want to return to its farm. “Mom, if it was on the road, it probably doesn’t live on a farm: it’s a wild cow. It needs to be adopted.” So you set me up with the paperwork, and I assume responsibility for a new dependent.

You spend your 30 screen-time minutes watching Johnathan Bird’s Blue World videos about sea snakes and other fauna. The boys leave on a bike ride, and you notice a tennis court is free, so we go play some pickleball.

When the courts are wet, they are ours!
When the courts are wet, they are ours!

We’re sitting on the top of the hill watching 3-year-olds run away from their parents when Paul and Dad find us again. We collectively cajole you into a trip to Costco. Shopping hungry, we come home with a number of “did we really need this?” treats, but hey, it’s the holidays.

Home again, you watch Dad play some of his video game (God of War—boy, does he love it) and then decide to go hawk some lemonade at the park with Paul. You sell zero cups but have a good time on the playground.

At your request, we eat dinner on the deck, in the dark, on this humid, 74-degree December day. You have two half macarons for dessert and take a bath with Paul, your long legs hanging over the side of the tub while you ask me questions about the lyrics to De Colores and the evolution patterns of certain pokemon.

After a good tooth brushing and some new clothes, you climb up into bed. Dad goes with you. You decide you’re going to read to him tonight, and take the lead on a few chapters of Dog Man. We say goodnight at 7:30. We’ve just today replaced your old “okay to wake” clock—the one that turned green to let you know when wake-up time arrived—with a regular old alarm clock, tall red numbers visible across the room for all to read. You are no little kid anymore, my girl. No you are not.