In real life | Making something out of nothing and calling it a day

Nicki Gilbert is a writer and country music lover who lives in Piedmont with her husband and four kids. Most weekends in the fall you can find her at a soccer game. Her blog is and she tweets @nixgilbertca.


The sun streams through the kitchen windows. Its warm rays caress the petals of the orangey-pink roses I picked from the garden, and they glow in delight. It’s going to be a beautiful day, I think, as I count out the eggs. Some for the French toast, a couple to boil for me; I wonder if anyone wants scrambled eggs this morning. A beautiful day, my thoughts resume, perfect for …

“What are we doing today, Mom?” The ever-hungry tween is always first in the kitchen in the morning, even on weekends. He slides his growing, gangly frame onto the chair, full of expectations not only for food but also for a day of fun and adventure: lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf, a picnic at Stinson, movies at Jack London, skateboarding, shopping, trampolining, fruit-picking, hanging out with friends, a barbecue with cousins, something, anything, all of the above!

It’s the perfect day for … nothing. I hand over my answer with a plate of steaming French toast. “Nothing? The whole day?” The maple syrup is not enough to ease his disappointment.

The kitchen is starting to get uncomfortably warm. It’s going to be a cloudless day, one of those rare hot-even-at-the-beach days, and I consider changing my mind. Sandwiches, bathing suits, towels, sunscreen, a Frisbee, chairs, snacks, shovels, fruit, cold water, a cooler, more snacks, traffic on the bridge (whichever one we take), so snacks for the car, a book (you never know, I might get 10 minutes to read), did I forget the sunscreen?

I can’t do it. It’s the weekend after a long back-to-school week of new schedules and carpools, the first weekend before soccer and football season starts, and I know there is much excitement to be had beyond the walls of this now-stifling kitchen, but today I need to do as little as possible. And nothing that involves snacks.

He pours another dollop of syrup onto his plate.

“Mom, are we doing anything today?” His sister splashes milk all over the counter. Full jugs of milk are heavy for 9-year-old arms. As I’ve mentioned to her before.

I have to open a window. Even the roses are starting to wilt in this heat.

Before I can deliver the bad news that no, we are not “doing anything” today, the remaining two brothers saunter in, both looking for nourishment and answers to fill their empty tummies. If I hear “What are we doing today, Mom?” one more time I might implode.

I get that each is asking an innocent question. That it’s rare for us not to have something on the go, some kind of weekend plan, and all four of them are simply trying to manage their own expectations in their own way. On non-game days, we do usually embark on a local adventure that includes snacks and family together time, so their questions are not unreasonable or even unexpected.

I need down time. I need a day or two to recharge. To restock the fridge (or at least make a list), to print permission slips and reply to emails, to remember the little old dog we lost over the summer, to gather my thoughts and the day-old Icee cups from the corners of the minivan. And, maybe, to do nothing at all.

“This,” I say to the four pairs of hopeful eyes and finally full bellies. “This is what we’re doing. We’re staying home and hanging out. Talk to each other, play with each other, read, do not watch TV, draw, take your baby brother to the park, be bored. This. We’re doing this.”

I find them, a couple of astonishingly quiet hours later, four pairs of arms and legs entangled on beanbags, amid a mountain of photo albums and memories. Their laughter draws me closer.

“Mom, look at this one, my first day of preschool!” His 14-year-old face is incredulous that he was once that size. I know how he feels. “Mom, Mom, remember my party at the zoo?” “Oh wow, I forgot I was Minnie Mouse for Halloween that year!” “Mom, who is this at your wedding?”

Some weekends, we can go anywhere we want together. Just by staying home.

Nicki Gilbert

Nicki Gilbert is a writer, Alcatraz swimmer and country music lover who lives in Piedmont with her husband, four kids and dachshund puppy. Her blog is