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 Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 7 years and 2 months old.

It’s June; school’s out; and we’re in our first summer of stitching camps together for you and Paul. You two sleep in until seven. You wake up and dance around while I pack your lunch and Dad makes a round of chocolate pancakes. I sit next to you to brush your hair and encounter two of the most serious tangles I have seen in some time. We brush and pick and add conditioner—but eventually have to cut them out. You look in the mirror and do it with nail scissors. What with all the sun, chlorine, and hair-twisting, you may end up with a bit of a shag look this summer. We discuss strategies for better hair maintenance while you buckle on your helmet, and I watch, impressed, as you manage to roll your bike down all the back steps and out the gate. I walk with you into the park until you spot Paul and Dad, and you’re off for 20 minutes of riding around the park before it’s time for camp.

You load into the car with Dad, and he drives you to a church on the edge of our neighborhood for Creative Action camp. It’s all sorts of arts. We hear you make a video, and you come home with a wolf mask, and soaking wet from an afternoon of watersliding. We scamper across the hot parking lot (102 today) and head home. You play a few minutes of Minecraft with Paul in the loft. At 5, your best friend Jade arrives for a sleepover. She is wearing a little crop-top/training bra thing. The two of you disappear into your room, and you emerge in your black tank top, hand-cropped.

enjoying popcorn while I sew your "bra"
enjoying popcorn while I sew your “bra”
getting ready to craft
getting ready to craft

We eat quesadillas and fruit for dinner and then put on Harry Potter 3. You and Jade watch half an hour while I sew elastic into your homemade bra, and then adjourn to the craft table to draw black widow spiders and chat.

Jade: Lino was really a jerk to us, right? Remember that time he called us stupid?

Paul, from the couch: LINO is stupid.

Jade: Yeah.

Annie: No, Lino’s not stupid. Sometimes he just can’t control his feelings and says bad things.

7:15 rolls around, and you gleefully set up your bed for company. Elaborate plans are made and executed. We say goodnight. You reappear with further agenda items. Rinse, repeat. My last sighting of you is at 9:15, when the two of you appear at the guest room doorway, where Paul is sleeping. I growl at you. Good night, big kid.

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

To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 7 years and 1 month old.

You sit down at the breakfast table right on time and chat with us while Dad makes the standard morning pancakes. I cross my fingers in the sign language you invented to inquire whether you would like two ponytails this morning, and you affirm that selection. I gently extract yesterday’s rubberbands, comb out the snarls, and re-tail your hair.

It’s the home stretch of the school year, and you have a daily calendar of special events. Today you are to wear pajamas and bring a favorite book. I make sure you’ve got shorts and a tank on underneath your long-sleeve flannel—it’s going to be in the 90s again.

We walk to school. You and Paul lag behind, heads together in your own world, talking about insects and plants. We find an owl feather as we approach the school. You notice that no one else walking up is wearing pajamas and do some positive self-talk. “Be brave, Annie. This IS pajama day.”

You disappear into the cafeteria as the bell rings, and go on to your day. It IS pajama day, it turns out, and thank goodness, because it means we get a cute class photo from Mrs. Nuncio.


You all read some of your favorite books to the class. You report you read a full chapter of the 6th-grade-reading-level book Framed. “Are you SUPER impressed, Mom?” Mmm…hmm.

On the way home, you walk with Dad and listen with interest as he tells you about colorblindness, and rods and cones. You catch up with Paul and I as we scavenge mulberries. You both collect as many as you can hold to make potions or paint back at home, and happily engage in mess-making while we pull together dinner.



We eat a simple dinner, and you politely request 10 minutes of Monster School, an extremely stupid youtube video with Minecraft characters. Blech. Sure, 10 minutes, but clean up your paint potions first. You do.

Bathtime is bubbly, and you and Paul pretend there are sharks and orcas and build Arctic mountains, an ongoing game. Out and dry, you climb up to bed and put on clothes for tomorrow. Dad reads you Fox in Socks—still great—and we say goodnight. Goodnight!

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 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.




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.


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.


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.