A Little Less Conversation

At the grocery store, I dial his cell phone. It goes to voice mail.

"Hey. I have two vitally important questions, so call me ay-sap."

We’re unloading the cart onto the conveyor belt when he calls back. "What’s up?"

"OK, first: what was I supposed to buy at the store?"

"Sugar. Tea. Um, bananas?"

"Got them. Good. OK, the other question was way more important. What’s the Elvis song that goes ‘A little more satisfaction, a little more nananana…’?"

I know I’m getting the words wrong, so I have to sing it. The man in line behind me grins, and the checkout lady cuts a glance at the bagger. An Elvis impersonator I am not. But sometimes you have to humble yourself in the quest for knowledge.

Scott is laughing. "A little less conversation, a little more action."

"RIGHT! Yes. That’s it. Thank you."


"It came on while I was shopping and I needed to remember the words." We’d been in the dairy aisle, the boy, the baby, and I, and I couldn’t help it, started dancing, which the boy can’t stand. Mom, tease top! Please stop! He hates when I sing, too, which is a huge joke on me. I used to think I would sing to my babies and they would gaze lovingly into my eyes, smitten, enchanted. But none of the first three seemed particularly interested in my tender melodies, or else they cried. I’m not that bad, I swear, except for my Elvis. Then along came my little boy, the fragile infant I sang to for hours in the NICU because what else could we do? In his early months at home, I thrilled at the way he stared raptly into my eyes as I sang, his bitty face full of all the wonder I’d imagined my babies would feel at the sound of mother’s crooning.

Then we found out he was hard of hearing. My softly crooned melodies? He couldn’t hear them.

The wonder I saw in his eyes was probably "I wonder why she keeps moving her mouth like that?"

Ever since he got the hearing aids, he begs me to stop singing before I’ve hit the third note.

I still sing, I can’t help it, I sing over dishes and vacuuming and in the shower and in the car. And sometimes I have to dance a little in the dairy aisle because that song, it gets inside the marrow of you and makes your heart pump faster.

When I got home, Scott had a link waiting for me: that’s what I’m talking about. You can bet my son didn’t beg the King to tease top.

84 Degrees in February

Glorious weather today. An outside, low-tide kind of day.

In the morning Beanie and I finally returned to Half Magic; I think
it’s been almost two weeks. She claims it is her favorite thing in the
entire world except for snuggling in bed. High praise! We’re at the
part where Jane has wished she belonged to another family, and she’s
the spoiled, prissy, niminy-piminy "Little Comfort" that makes the
other children gag and has Bean and me in stitches.

Then Beanie wanted to start a crocheting project (she is just
learning), a bookmark, so she did the "chain ten" part and I showed her
how to single crochet. We worked on one row together. Then she was
ready for a snack, she said, and that led to going outside, and once
outside the gorgeousness of the day got into me and I decided upon an
impromptu outing. We grabbed water bottles and the camera and drove to
a hiking trail that leads up Cowles Mountain.

(Poor Rilla was so upset as we set off: I’d said "Do you want to go
for a walk?" and she sprinted for her shoes, and then suddenly she was
being hustled into the car and WHAT IS THIS CAR NONSENSE? YOU PROMISED
ME A WALK! Oh, the wrath and woe. Until she found a water bottle from
yesterday with a little left in it and got busy pouring it down her

We’ve often driven past this mountain but never hiked it. And I knew
we weren’t up for the full mile-and-a-quarter trek to the top today,
not me alone with the five, but we thought we see how far we could get.
At first I thought that wasn’t going to be much farther than the
parking lot. Wonderboy has a thing about wanting everything to be
always the same, always just so. Usually when I wear Rilla in the
sling, he is riding in the stroller. But this time of course we
couldn’t use the stroller; I needed him to walk. But Rilla was in the
sling. He cried. He resisted. He became increasingly agitated (aka
LOUD). I quailed from the possibility (inevitability, it seemed) of
shattering the peace of the morning air for all the other hikers: the
parking lot was full; we could see a number of people ascending and
descending on the trail. They would hate us, I feared. I couldn’t do
it, couldn’t in good conscience ruin their pleasant hike, scare off the
birds, most likely cause rockslides from the vibrations of Wonderboy’s
wails. We would have to bail. And just as I was heaving the sigh that
would precede my resigned announcement to some disappointed girls, the
boy accepted this unseemly breach of routine and consented to trot
alongside me, holding my hand.

So we hiked.

The girls ran ahead up the path, and I tried to take pictures but
I’m sure they are all blurry because I only had one hand free and never
stood still. Wildflowers everywhere: orange poppies, some kind of
purple flower on tallish stalks (I’ll post a blurry photo later and
y’all can ID it), black-eyed Susans galore. Oh, it was splendid. Clear
air, soaring blue sky, Mount Helix green in the distance and Mount San
Miguel a charcoal presence behind it, spiked with radio towers.

Far above us on the trail, but only perhaps halfway up the mountain,
were some giant boulders, a gnarled outcropping of sandy yellow stone.
I thought maybe we’d go up half as far as those rocks, but the girls
kept wanting to go a bit farther, a bit farther, and suddenly we were
there. The trail was muddy and rocky and pocked with puddles—all this
rain we’ve had of late—but with a view like that, oh, who cares?

Rose wanted to go to the top. By then I was wearing Rilla in front
and piggybacking Wonderboy, so no, no summit-reaching today. Our
descent was challenging. Near the bottom Rilla began to voice some
complaints about sharing her pack-horse with her brother, and things
might have come to disaster but for the kind intervention of a young
mom on her way down the hill. She sweet-talked Wonderboy into letting
her tote him the last few curves in the trail.

We made it.

Home, snacks, water; no one really wanted lunch. Rose and Bean
played a computer game ("we’re learning math, Mom"), Jane re-read the
Emily Starr books, Rilla nursed for like ever, Wonderboy watched The

Rose asked me to help her start a knitting project which is supposed
to be a Mother’s Day present for me. She worried a bit about having to
spoil the surprise by asking for my help, but it starts with ribbing
and she doesn’t know purl yet. I told her getting to make it with her
is a present in itself. She got chatty while I cast on.

The baby went down for a nap. Rose and I turned over the compost
pile. Beanie scootered in the backyard, Wonderboy rode his fire truck.
Jane was still inside reading, or maybe by then she was working on the
funky math project she got out of Mathematics: A Human Endeavor: she
made this set of numbered cards with special hole punches at each end,
and there’s a way of sticking unbent paper clips through the holes that
separates out the numbers in certain ways, and it represents an
algorithm and also the Fibonacci sequence and possibly the cure for
cancer. Whatever it was, it was cool. She also copied out this drawing
puzzle thing where I had to start drawing a line inside a rectangle and
whenever I came to a wall, make a right angle and keep drawing. It made
a very cool diamond pattern and I loved it, loved that she is so on
fire about this sort of thing and willing to patiently teach me about
it. I love being homeschooled.

Anyone Got an ID For Me?

Not the best photo but it’s all I had time for before he flew away. This is a new visitor to our yard; he was supervising the rowdy finches at the feeder this morning. He’s bigger than a finch, almost robin-sized.

We don’t get anything like the variety of birds to our feeders here that we got in Virginia, at the feet of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Gone are the charcoal-colored juncoes, the chipper titmice, the sweet chickadees, the nuthatches and downy woodpeckers and flickers. We used to have a nesting pair of bluebirds right outside my office window, and two cardinal couples who came for dinner every evening. Now and then a huge pileated woodpecker would dazzle us from the neighbor’s tree, and sometimes a hawk would swoop low and scare the mourning doves.

Here in the suburbs of San Diego, in this particular yard at least, there are only finches: house, purple, gold; and sparrows; and arrogant crows; and one inquisitive phoebe, a Say’s Phoebe, who likes to perch on our side-yard fencepost and survey the action in the street.

Oh, and parrots! A raucous flock of them, green and squawking in the treetops, fluttering up en masse and swirling together to the next tree. Always, by the time I’ve run for my camera, they are gone.

There is an elementary school on the other side of our back fence (I know, the irony is delicious), and last week my parents were walking along along the schoolyard fence with my three youngest bairns when they encountered a science teacher carrying cages of cockatiels. He let the kids play with the birds and told my parents he is putting a nesting box for the parrots in the big tree right behind us; he’s hoping for eggs so he can raise a pair.

So: parrots we’ve got. But I miss my Eastern birds, I do.

This fellow, the newcomer: I hope he’ll return. I don’t know what he is—yet. Any thoughts?

What Do You Think?

You Are a Question Mark

You seek knowledge and insight in every form possible. You love learning.
And while you know a lot, you don’t act like a know it all. You’re open to learning you’re wrong.

You ask a lot of questions, collect a lot of data, and always dig deep to find out more.
You’re naturally curious and inquisitive. You jump to ask a question when the opportunity arises.

Your friends see you as interesting, insightful, and thought provoking.
(But they’re not always up for the intense inquisitions that you love!)

You excel in: Higher education

You get along best with: The Comma

Wow! I do seek knowledge and insight, almost compulsively! I am open to being wrong: I’ve had so much practice! I do ask a lot of questions, collect information, dig dig dig! That’s true! Wow! I do sometimes overwhelm my friends with too much of the digging and asking! Gosh! It must be true! I’m a question mark! And here I would have sworn I was exclamation point. Who knew?


HT: Diane, the comma—so that’s why we get along so well!