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.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 3 months old.

You are up eeeearly on this Saturday, raring to go at 6:15. You agitate for activities; Dad and I suggest cuddling on the couch for crosswords and coffee. You grudgingly accept this offer as the best you’re likely to get. As the sun rises, you eat toasted waffles and put another layer of wrapping paper on the birthday gift you’ve made for your friend Vera (it’s a giant paper airplane—she’ll be thrilled), and make one for River, too, while you’re at it. You watch Dad do a little guitar work.


When Annie is up and about as well, you two form your team and do some wrestling on the couch. Your toys line up for RPG battles. At opening hour, Dad takes you to Costco to stock up and perhaps spend some of your latest lemonade stand money. You are extremely disappointed to find nothing you can afford with the $8 remaining to you. Annie, however, purchases a pack of baby squishmallows that form the backbone of your next project: creating an endangered squishmallow refuge. After significant infrastructure arrangement, you emerge to ernestly plead with the donor class for visits and financial support.

Dad agrees to a visit but has no cash, so you kindly issue us both a store credit card.
Dad agrees to a visit but has no cash, so you kindly issue us both a store credit card. It’s 50 cents to feed a baby squishmallow.

The afternoon wears on, and it’s time for your next social engagement: Vera’s birthday party. You add 4 small squishmallows to her gift and a giant rainbox tag: I LOVE YOU VERA PAUL. I somehow fail to take a photo of this.

We arrive at Vera’s house and discover you are the only boy invited. You are unfazed. The girls like you, and I like their moms. Vera has made plans to marry you. We have a nice couple of hours.

scrambling for pinata treats
scrambling for pinata treats

Back at home, you don’t look so hot. You’re coughing in that complicated way you have that makes me picture every little bronchiole in your lungs, and your temperature is a little high. We decide stay home from dinner with the Crowders in favor of couch snuggles. You play Prodigy and casually execute some algebra (10 + 8 = __ + 5) while I read and take your temperature every 10 minutes. It never gets bad.

I do not mind this plan at all.
I do not mind this plan at all.

We eat dinner and you take a long steamy bath. There’s enough time for one more thing, and you decide on building a robot out of plastic cups, no maybe just drawing a blueprint, no actually we’re going to make a book, about us. You are going to be the illustrator, and I’ll be the writer. What is it about? YOU can decide, Mom. But NO PROBLEMS and NOTHING BAD.


You proudly complete our project, and we’re climbing into bed as Annie and Dad arrive home. Annie joins in the bedtime routine, and I read a library book to you about Jupiter and tuck all your lovies around you. Goodnight, goober.

a day in your life

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

You’ve adjusted to the time change and sleep until a healthy 6:30. I come visit you and Paul, both snuggled in your bed, as you’re blinking awake. You’re in a bit of a silly mood and forgo breakfast in favor of thrashing around in the living room armchair, eventually consenting to a hair brush. We pack your flamingo sun hat for school: you are practicing in music today for a performance next week, and hats are involved.

You protest your lack of breakfast when it’s time to leave—sorry, sweetie, you chose to wallow in a chair instead of eat. I cut you a hunk of bread to gnaw on en route, and you’re all smiles. You ask me to hold your bread hunk while you show off your skills at putting your own hair into a ponytail. Impressive! Neighbors walking their dogs smile at you and Paul, your heads together and whispering, as we near the school. I get a quick side-hug at the front door, and you disappear into the school.

Dad picks you up at the end of the day and walks you home. I have a PTA Board meeting so head to school separately. You tell me later than your friend Elke wanted the two of you to come to the meeting so you could play on the sidelines. Instead, you make giant paper airplanes out of our 4x-sized construction paper at home, and spend a long time on the swings at the playground. You run in the backdoor at 5:30 and give me an enthusiastic hug.

Paul brought home his math book from school, which inspires a hunt for your own 1st grade textbook. It can’t be found, but you do unearth a stack of your old work and a sticker book, which you spread around the dining table for a few minutes of entertainment. We eat at the other end.


We decide to spend some time after dinner in our various learning pursuits. You take Dad’s guitar to the couch and spend 10 minutes plucking strings, then do a singing lesson. You comandeer my phone, which has the language app, and work on some beginning German. “Das Mädchen trinkt,” I hear in your tiny voice.

During bath time, you direct and perform synchonizing farting with Paul, letting captured air escape from cups under your legs and cackling at your wicked cleverness.

You decide to try on your new jeans after bath, which you want to like, but don’t quite yet. “Mom, if I start complaining, will you try to help me feel better?” Innoculated with this self-awareness, you keep your cool and decide very rationally on more comfortable pants for bed.


the most powerfulest card

I just pretended to buy “the most powerfulest” Pokemon card off some weird online storefront, for .80 + 2.50 in shipping, cleaning out Paul’s and Annie’s allowance balance. It’s an Arceus vmax, 10000 health/8000 damage, in case you didn’t know. The ship date is in January. Paul doesn’t mind how long it will take—he’ll take a “seasonally long nap” until it arrives. “Like hibernating?” I ask. YES. “You’ll miss all the holidays!” “That’s okay!” Annie is also going to hibernate. They are creating their cozy nest, in fact. Annie pops out of her room. “Mom, good news about the hibernating: I spent all day cleaning boogers out of nose, so I’ll have a clear nose for it!”

This is all true, if surreal. Also true: I will be seeing a whole lots of ads for Pokemon cards.

a day in your life

To Paul: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years and 2 months old.

Dad calls from Berlin, and you talk to him on the phone as you wake up slowly in bed. Eventually you emerge to have breakfast, under the table in “niblet mode” (pretending to be helpless and silly). We pack your backpack to include a pickle juice bottle filled with water, and you are full of wicked glee at the idea of tricking your classmate Alexander (“he’s seven already!”) into thinking it’s actually pickle juice.

We walk to school with Aunt Camei. On the way, you admire the moon and share facts about it—moonlight is reflected sunlight—and new revelations. “That’s where the sun rises and sets,” you say pointing east, and pointing west, “That’s where the moon rises and sets.” Well… Correctly, you add, “But actually it’s the earth that’s moving.” And you get very still to see if you can feel it.

looking moonward
looking moonward

Approaching the school, you have the important revelation that perhaps your missing water bottles ARE IN THE LOST AND FOUND. What??? It’s sure worth a shot. You visit the box on your way in, but alas, no bottles. The recycled pickle juice container must do.

I don’t hear much about your day, but Aunt Camei picks you up at the end of it, and you have a pleasant walk home. After a snack, you visit the playground, and there things fall apart a bit. Expecting to stay until 5:30, you are extremely dismayed when the return-to-house occurs at 5:26, and fall apart into a defiant wreck. I come home briefly at about this time and take you upstairs to decompress. You share your sense of betrayal, and I attempt to reinforce adult authority before bugging out again for a work dinner. Reconcilliations are made over a screening of Paw Patrol and some Pokemon cards.


I return at 7:30 for the bedtime routine, and read a bit of Matilda and some of the Dangerous Book for Boys for you. Goodnight, little tiger.

a day in your life

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

You sleep in this Monday morning, but are full of smiles from the bed. I sit in the chair and answer your questions, while Dad makes you chocolate-chip pancakes.

We leave for school a little late and walk hand-in-hand while the boys lag behind. You’re in a new sweatshirt passed down from friend Jade and show me your trick of keeping your hands warm inside your sleeves. “Is it this cold all winter?” you ask, my sweet summer child. It’s 67 degrees.


The first bell rings as we’re walking up. You give Dad a big goodbye hug—he’ll leave for a long work trip to Europe later this afternoon. Into the school you go.

You have a substitute today, Ms “Cruc…. she said if we couldn’t pronounce her name to call her Ms. C,” who was “pretty good!” You went to PE and read books, including one on the Titanic, “I learned it left on April 10th and The Californian rescued the lifeboats on April 15th,” and one about Anne Frank. “Can you tell me all the facts you know about Anne Frank?” you ask. Oh my goodness.

Back home, we have a snack (raspberries and cheese), and you spend half an hour on Epic, listening to more books. I overhear the one about Sonya Sotomayor, replete with themes of Latina empowerment and Supreme Court basics. You walk me through the sound map you drew at school, by closing your eyes and listening for everything you could hear. Cool. We eat dinner and have remarkably advanced conversation. “What inspired you to work at UT Austin?” you ask.



We invite 1st-grader/neighbor Sabine’s family to the playground on the spur of the moment and spend a happy hour there. You negotiate elaborate pretend scenarios in which you are 19 (your favorite age). She loans you her toy phone for the night, sealing your friendship forever.

We miss Dad but manage the evening on our own, ending the night with a bit of Matilda (second round). Goodnight, 2nd-grader.