I’m sitting in our patio room, a pleasant many-windowed room off the kitchen. From this cozy pink chair—a hand-me-down from our friend Marianne in Virginia, but dubbed "Mr. Dave’s Chair" by Beanie because it was Mr. Dave who carted it from Marianne’s house to ours in his pickup truck three or four years ago—I have a view of the kitchen table, where Rose sits finishing her breakfast, and beyond her to the Christmas tree in the front corner of our living room. The star I put atop the tree is too heavy and has flipped down backward. The tree lights are still on even though it’s past ten in the morning. We’re all still in our pajamas.
I love Saturdays.
I overhauled this whole room yesterday, and it feels great. The kids got a bunch of board games for Christmas, and making a space for them had a sort of Flylady-shine-your-sink effect. You know how once the sink is shiny, you want the counter next to it to sparkle too, and suddenly you find you have cleaned the whole kitchen? Same thing here. We have a little round table in the patio room that hasn’t been used for much lately besides collecting clutter. There are some white shelves behind it, and I wanted to clear them of books and abandoned art projects to make room for games right next to the table. This room is cold in winter, especially at night, and we hadn’t been using it much. But it’s such a nice sunny room, and it’s where most of the little kids’ toys are. Scott’s sister gave us her kids’ old Brio train table when we moved to Virginia (we are big on the hand-me-downs), and the battery-operated train set my dad brought a few visits back is a great favorite with Rilla and Wonderboy. Rilla is sitting on the train table right now, looking at an Each Peach Pear Plum board book and singing "Bee-bee, bee-bee," over and over.
Scott’s at the desktop computer on the other side of the train table, with Wonderboy at his knee, as usual. This is what Saturday morning usually looks like around here, except in the past, Wonderboy had more teeth. Thursday morning’s dentist appointment was quite short: long enough for the dentist to look in his mouth and say, yup, those teeth need to come out. I can do it this afternoon. We took him back later that day—Scott met us so he could go to the treatment room with the boy while I waited up front with the girls—and the dentist extracted both teeth. The boy was amazing. They didn’t have to put him out, just gave him Novacaine. He came trotting out to the waiting room afterward, actually laughing. Even when the Novacaine wore off, he didn’t seem bothered by the pain. The dentist had to put one stitch in. She said the two teeth that got shoved into the gum when he fell were waaaay up there, interlocking in a way that made them hard to remove. Scott turns pale if you ask him about the procedure. I wouldn’t ask, if I were you.
The dentist gave me the teeth in a tiny blue treasure chest, but I haven’t had the heart to look at them yet. His four-tooth-wide gap, flanked by fangs, is totally adorable, though. And we’re all glad that chapter is (dare we hope?) finished.
Now Jane is reading Rilla’s book to her, waiting for me to brush her hair because that’s been tricky to do herself since she got the cast on.
Anyway, yesterday I cleaned out all the spiders and dusted everything and carried the clutter to the laundry room. I don’t so much declutter as move clutter. It’s a failing. But at least I’m pretty good at keeping it out of the main living spaces. This patio room looks so much better today. The round table is cleared and ready for games. There’s an amaryllis bulb in a blue pot spiking up its leaves in the middle of the table. Maps on the walls, and some art prints, and bird posters from Project Feederwatch. A Leslie Austin house garland wishing us a Happy Christmas and a Bright New Year from the top of a bookcase. On the next shelf down is a berry-studded basket containing my unaddressed Christmas cards. I decided that at least the project could look pretty while it’s being neglected.
Now all the kids are in here too, and I’ve brushed two heads of hair and listened to Beanie’s narrative of a terrifying hallway encounter with a daddy-long-legs. We are always on the edge of danger around here. Scott is playing Avril Lavigne on his computer to tease me. I was walking around earlier this morning singing "Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?"—I have no idea why. I was mixing up a suet ball to hang in our backyard, but it wasn’t complicated at all. It’s generally too warm here to leave suet out long, but all we’ve been getting at our feeders are purple finches and house sparrows, and I miss the nuthatches and downy woodpeckers who used to visit us daily in Virginia.
I’m the only one still in my pajamas. While I’ve been sitting here in my comfy chair, they all got dressed. But I haven’t been writing the whole time. I nursed Rilla and put in Wonderboy’s hearing aids and (speaking of extractions) extracted a half-inch-long sticker from the tongue of Jane’s sneaker. Rose brought Scott ‘one last Christmas present’—a framed photo of Rilla, which made us all howl, because it’s no secret that daddy is mushy over his baby daughter. "For your office," says Rose. "So you won’t miss her so much while you’re at work."
A year and a half later, we’re all still adjusting to having Scott work away from home.
The kitched clock just chirped eleven: our beloved old bird clock that Veronica Bellucci gave to Jane on her fifth birthday. They are Eastern birds and many of them are absent friends now. The 9:00 cardinal is Rose’s bird (she claimed it at age three, so don’t even think of saying it’s your favorite—not if you’re her sister, at least). I miss the chickadees most. There are probably lots in the mountains east of here, but I haven’t seen any in this part of San Diego county. We have a phoebe, though, and I adore her. She has the coloring of a slate junco, charcoal back and creamy ivory breast, with a tufted head like a cardinal or titmouse. She perches on our back fence every day and radiates silent disapproval at the purple finches squabbling like ruffians at the feeder.
We had hummingbirds last winter, nicknamed "Panty" and "Sock-sock" by the children (I guess I didn’t have to add "by the children"—you know I am never going to name a bird "Panty"). I haven’t seen them in a long time, though. I hung another basket of red flowers outside the kitchen window—I can see it from this chair—because the one I hung last year, the one I let die over the summer, tsk tsk, brought the hummingbirds a-visiting several times a day.
The house has become suddenly quiet. Scott took all five kids to the library. I think this is only the fourth or fifth time I’ve ever been completely alone in this house. Only Avril and I are left, and since she’s just playing on a YouTube clip, I think she’s about to hush too. I have to think what to do with this unexpected space of time. Answer mail? It is still piled up, horribly so, in my in-box. Finally get to the Christmas cards? Work on the baby sweater I’ve been crocheting at the stunning rate of approximately one row per month for the past year? Write thank-you notes? Finish my planner reviews? No, not a computer thing. I think I’ll continue in yesterday’s vein. It felt so good to spruce this room up. And look how everyone flocked here this morning, like birds to a freshly filled feeder. I want to tackle our bedroom next. It’s a closet, both in size and in terms of clutter storage. If I showed you what it looks like right now your eyes would burn. I’m craving a peaceful sanctuary—but of course the post-Christmas budget requires this little project be done in "use what’s in your hand" fashion.
I’m off. Time to go get dressed and not be lazy.
December 2014, part the first
From the Archives: Life on the Trail
84 Degrees in February
Book-Banning, Beanie & Rose Style