At five, her dear, dearest Dada gets up and they start the day. I am happily unaware of what exactly goes on between five and seven, although I know it involves dishes and oatmeal and honey.
"Why do we put honey on our oatmeal?"
"That's right! Because it's yummy!"
Then they come upstairs. The first thing I'm aware of is Cleo saying, "Uppa dairs!" And the answering, "Yep, up the stairs! Let's go get Mama!" And then the feet come running down the hall and the door gets pushed open. They've been practicing saying, "Good morning, Mama!" It's going well, but this morning, she came in and he said, "What were we going to say to Mama?" And she said, very proudly, "Mo', pease!" So I told her how nice it is to say please, and how she's such a polite little girl, and also good morning.
Then I have half an hour to put myself together for the day and have breakfast, and Cleo has half an hour to alternately play and ask for bites of my oatmeal. This girl is made of oatmeal. She likes it not only the Dada way (milk, butter, honey) but also plain, and even the Mama way (butter, salt and pepper).
Then we all brush our teeth together. This is a relatively new part of the routine, partly because we're lazy and partly because she still only has four teeth, and why stress about brushing what's largely still theoretical. She's into it. It took some cajoling and a few days of whole-family-tooth-brushing before she came around, but now she asks to "Buss teef" whenever she catches a glimpse of the Elmo toothbrush (a helpful item in the campaign for dental hygiene).
Then we kiss good old Dada goodbye and he goes upstairs to work ("Uppa dairs! Uppa Dada!" She's working it out.) We often go to the grocery store at this point in the day, because although it's mid-morning in Cleoland, the store is just opening and it's nice and empty. There are usually just enough people that we can have some nice chats and lots of waving. If it's Tuesday or Thursday, there are four and a half hours of school to be had, and Cleo is loving it. Her teachers are delightful, and have that toddler magic all figured out. In other words, they know it's very important that Elmo get his diaper changed, and that we pile all the babies up in the crib so that they can have a nap. It's a wonderful feeling to have some time to myself while I know that Cleo's enjoying herself in a warm, friendly place with people she likes.
After school, it's naptime. These days, that means a bottle of milk (guk), a book (guk), and a pacifier (bab-doot). Hey, we can understand her. Usually. She sleeps for an hour, then wakes up and cries, and then one of us (weekdays=me, weekends=him) will sit in the glider in her room and hold her and she'll sleep another hour. This routine is under the same heading as morning wake-up time: Not Ideal/Not Insufferable, It's Been Worse/It'll Get Better. Since she doesn't seem to mind a dimly-lit room, we can either read or doze as we hold her, and there are much worse things than a quiet hour with a sweet sleeping baby.
Afternoons, we often get together with other kids and parents. Yesterday, I told her we were going to see Jane, Max, and Ella* and she said, "And cheese!" As it happened, she was right.
I'm running out of time (father-daughter music class ends in five minutes), so here's the rest of the day, shorthand:
Dinner: a struggle.
This kid: the darling of my heart.
*not their real names