It was 5:30 in the morning when Kenya Mire looked down at her baby girl, Kendyll, who was curled up tight on a foldaway crib. "Night, night," Kendyll had just murmured in her quiet, serious way. At 20 months, she was picking up all sorts of words, like "baby," the name of the doll she kept nearby, and "Bryce," the name of her big brother. She hadn't slept much that night, and Mire thought about calling in late to work so Kendyll could get more rest. But it was only Mire's second day at a new job she badly needed, as a receptionist at a Houston oil company. Mire, who was 30, with an open face and wide smile, was intent on making a good impression. The best she could do was give Kendyll an extra hour to nap and prepare some warm milk for her breakfast.
When Kendyll got up, Mire dressed her in a purple shirt that matched her own--purple was Kendyll's favorite color--and put a pair of purple-striped stretch pants in her backpack. It was a challenge to get Kendyll to sit still for the hour it took to unbraid and re-braid her dark hair, and on such a hectic morning, Mire didn't even try. At around 7 a.m., they got into the car and drove to Kendyll's new day care.