Raising Richmond: A day in the life

I spend so much time talking about Very Important Things here that I thought it was high time I put together a glimpse of what a normal day is like for our family. Because that’s where life really happens, doesn’t it?

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return. Mary Jean Irion

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My husband, Ross, lurches out of bed at 6:00 AM, just as his alarm goes off.1 As he makes his way down the stairs to get in a couple hours of work over a cup of tea, I roll over and go back to sleep.

An hour later, my first alarm goes off. I cut it off and go back to sleep until my second alarm goes off at 7:15 AM. It’s not until alarm #3 starts chirping at me at 7:30 AM that I actually pull myself into consciousness.2 Just as I send Ross a text begging for a cup of coffee, our son, JR, starts to stir. After a trip to the bathroom, JR wanders into our room, cannonballs onto the bed, and begins his daily airing of grievances:3 the pants I laid out for him aren’t skinny enough; the sun woke him up; Christmas is too far away; and other things like that.

We snuggle for a bit,4 and then I send JR off to get dressed. Soon after Ross brings in a cup of coffee5 which I pound while I check email, get caught up on Twitter, and engage in a holler-y conversation with JR as he gets ready for the day.

I finally schlep out of bed a little after 8:00 AM as JR goes downstairs to eat breakfast and chat with his dad while watching an episode of Curious George on the iPad. I wash up and put on less pajama-like clothing while Ross feeds the dogs and lets them out.

Ross is out the door by 8:30 AM and heads to work on the scooter. About 10 minutes later I load JR up in the car and we leave for school. JR spends most of the 15-minute drive (loudly) (but cutely) trying to read whatever signs he sees; I spend the majority of it trying to hear at least a few snippets of Morning Edition over JR’s backseat bellowing.

We get to school a little bit before 9:00 AM and part ways at the doors of the cafeteria with a few hugs and kisses. JR, a bit weighed down by his comically large backpack, ambles over to join his friends at his class’s table, flashing an ASL “I love you”6 to me on the sly.

I make it back home by about 9:15 AM, having eaten the first half of my breakfast (a banana) on the way there. After taking a few minutes to respond to the emails that have managed to pile up in the 45 minutes since I last checked, I head out for a run around our neighborhood.

I return 30 minutes later–sweaty and starving–to eat the rest of my breakfast (a piece of peanut butter toast) and answer even more emails. A quick stretch and a hot shower later, it’s finally time to get myself presentable and head over to our church’s office where I work as the administrator.

I finally get into the office at around 10:30 AM or quarter till (after maneuvering through several detours thanks to the cluster that is the City of Richmond’s current road repair efforts) and hunker down to pay bills, send and answer emails, make sure everything is running smoothly–you know, administering things. It’s just me in the office on this particular day, so I tear through several episodes of This American Life–and perhaps a few packages of graham crackers–as I check items off of my to-do list. My work rolls on at a steady pace through lunch and on until 2:45 PM when it’s time for me to go pick up JR from school.

I arrive just before 3:00 PM to collect JR from the mass of pre-kindergarteners teeming in the school cafeteria. We do a quick backpack check to make sure all of the necessary belongings are accounted for before taking a leisurely, hand-in-hand stroll back to the car. On the ride home, JR fills me in on the pre-k gossip: who he ate lunch with, what stories the teacher read, who was sick that day, who got in trouble, and so on.

It’s snack time for everyone once we arrive home at around 3:15 PM–string cheese and strawberries for him, crackers and a Diet Coke for me. While JR splits his time between his new Planes coloring book and whatever secret hideout he’s currently constructing out of LEGOs, I sort through his take-home folder, clean out his lunch box and thermos, and pack his lunch and snack for the following day.7 Since he’s pretty well occupied, I also manage to unload and reload the dishwasher and get some laundry going.

Exhaustion sets in an hour later, leaving us both cranky as all get out.8 So, I make the executive decision that it’s time for us to go upstairs and watch a movie until Ross gets home. JR picks Monsters, Inc. (as usual), and we cuddle up under the mountains of blankets on our bed. He recites most of the dialogue as I try (and fail) to keep my eyes open.

We hear the scooter zip up the walkway at about 5:30 PM, just as the movie ends. JR rushes down the stairs once he hears Ross’s keys in the door, shrieking “DADDY DADDY DADDY” and greeting his father with that tackle-hug-combo that almost-five-year-old boys are so very good at. Ross and I kiss hello and ask each other about our respective days, then he and JR catch up as I start working on dinner.

Dinner is ready a little after 6:00 PM, so everyone gets their drinks and digs into a meal of spaghetti and crusty bread. Ross and I attempt to have a conversation in between our requests for JR to stay in his seat, use his fork, and not spit pieces of bread into his glass of milk.

After dinner, Ross and JR work together to clear the table while I feed the dogs and take them outside to do their business and run around for a while. I come inside to find the men in my life in the middle of a heavy metal dance party, which continues as I load the dishwasher and wipe down the counters…and well beyond.

Once 7:00 PM rolls around,9 it’s time for JR to start winding down for bed. We turn down the music, pick up toys, and let him putter around the living room a bit, steeling ourselves for the amazingly arduous task of getting JR to move his body from the first floor of our house to the second where his bedroom is located. Finally, at about 7:15 or 7:30 PM, he says goodnight to his dad–in a very dramatic, drawn-out manner–and s-l-o-w-l-y makes his way upstairs. However, despite JR’s initial hesitancy to get the bedtime train going, teeth get brushed, hands and face get washed, and pajamas get put on with minimal thrashing and flailing about.

JR clambers into bed as I select our books for the night: The Story of Ferdinand and Imogene’s Antlers. I stretch out onto his Spider-man bedspread, and he snuggles up close, resting his head on my chest as I read. I close the book, turn out the light, and the kid’s snoring away after three verses of “Down By the Bay”10 and a few minutes of cuddling.

When I shuffle down to the basement where Ross is perched on the couch, tapping away on his iPad, he greets me with the most beautiful words in the English language: “Can I make you a Manhattan?”11 A few minutes later, drinks in hand, we settle in to watch an episode or two of The Vampire Diaries. Ross catches up on email, and I shout at the TV–our respective ways of decompressing for the day.

Ross’s eyes start getting droopy by about 10:30 PM so we make our way upstairs to go to bed. By the time I’ve left the bathroom, pre-bedtime ritual complete,12 Ross is out like a light, pillow over his face, sawing logs like there’s no tomorrow. I slip into bed, plug in my phone, turn out the light, and give Twitter and Facebook one last look before picking up my iPad to read. I read for about an hour before drifting off, only to be awoken seconds later by my iPad smacking me in the face as it slips out of my sleepy grip. Taking that as my cue that the day is finally done, I set the iPad down, pull up the covers, and curl up next to my soundly sleeping husband who is due to start his day–and mine–all over again in a few short hours.

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What does a typical day look like for you and your family? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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  1. He’s actually been awake since 5:30, clutching his phone until it starts to bleep and buzz. Thus is the curse of basically being a robot: if your brain knows you need to be awake by a certain time, it will make sure you are, without fail. 
  2. Except when it doesn’t, which is why I have a fourth alarm at the ready. 
  3. Like a tiny Frank Constanza, just every morning rather than once a year at Festivus. 
  4. Which basically consists of me attempting to hug him in between cannonballs. 
  5. I know, he’s dreamy. 
  6. Kills me every time. 
  7. Yes, I try to pack his lunch right then and there. Otherwise it probably just won’t get done. 
  8. The fact that we are able to hold off the crankiness until after 4:00 PM is a huge win in my book. Getting through the afternoons during those first couple weeks of school were hellish. 
  9. He doesn’t sleep during his class’s rest time which means early bedtime WHAT WHAT. 
  10. Seriously, this song every night. Every. damn. night. 
  11. Yes, coffee in the morning and a Manhattan at night. He’s my personal Beverage Director. 
  12. Admittedly, I take a ridiculously long time to get ready for bed. But I won’t apologize. It’s an extra 15 minutes that I can have completely to myself. 
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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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