grumpy about school

It’s back to school tomorrow! Yay! Both my kids are finally going to be in school full-time this year. They have staggered starts because they’re in different schools — Jesse’s school day is 7:50 to 3:02, Nick’s is 8:50 to 3:35.

No typos. Those are the real school hours. I have no explanation.

The staggered times reduce the scope of my freedom, but still, it’s a good thing. After a decade, approximately five days a week I will be minion-free for six hours. What to do, what to do? No doubt, grumble about it.

As the school year begins, here are the two things that are really sticking in my craw.

1. People asking me whether I’m going back to work.

Seriously, don’t ask me that. I’ve spent a decade in the company of children. I am neither marketable nor interested. Also I need a vacation. I’ve spent a total of five nights away from Jesse since she was born. Two of them, I was in the hospital giving birth to Nick. Doesn’t count. I still had a kid with me, and also, childbirth. Three of them, I was in California because Mom had a stroke. Those are the only three days I’ve been away from Nick. Also doesn’t count. I’ve had technical vacations, but they’ve been with the kids. As any parent can tell you, going on vacation with little kids is not rejuvenating.

Another reason I won’t go back to work? Jesse. Just… Jesse. High-needs child = low probability of success in a job requiring that I keep regular hours. I need to be available to her when she has need of me, no questions asked. And for that matter, I’d like to offer this same service to Nick.

No no no, an income-generating job is not to be my fate. Instead, I’m giving myself a stay-cation. I’m going to spend the next couple months slumped on the sofa in a housecoat and hair rollers, martini glass in one hand (full pitcher nearby) and a cigarette in the other, watching NCIS reruns and burping occasionally.

Okay okay, I’m making that up. This is the 21st century — replace the cigarette with my iPhone.

I’ll try to stop drinking by about 1:00 pm so that I can drive safely and pick up the kids without the noticeable stench of booze on my lips.

2.  School lunches.

I hate making school lunches, but I have to do it. Jesse’s egg allergy is prohibitive; I can’t let her eat the “hot lunch” offered by the school. Nick’s need for real food is prohibitive; I can’t let him eat the school-offered lunch either.

Making school lunches right now is a head-scratcher, because I have no kitchen. I really can’t do much. I certainly can’t do this shit, from a website called “mommy’s fabulous finds, everything mommy loves!”

Lunches so clean and pretty!

But they are not fabulous, and they are not everything I love. By the time my kid carts one of these pristine containers to school and dumps it in his or her locker, and then drags it down to the cafeteria and pries off the lid, it’s going to look like the inside of a garbage can. That yogurt in the bottom right will have smeared itself all over everything else; it’ll look like vomit. The ritz crackers on the bottom left will be soggy from touching the meat and cheese kabob for four hours at room temperature. And that pretty red strawberry? It will stain the kabob disgusting pink colors, guaranteeing that no ordinary kid will touch it without gagging.

Bon Appetit has weighed in on school lunches. Their editors think kids would actually eat a roasted broccoli and mozzarella sandwich.

Men are from Venus, Women are from Mars (do I have that right?), and Bon Appetit is from the Dumbbell Nebula some 1,360 light years from Earth.

And also this: “Spread a slice of toasted raisin bread with nut butter and raspberry jam. Top with bacon and sandwich with another slice of toasted raisin bread.”


BAHAHAHAHA. Remember that scene from The Princess Bride, where Vizzini the short bald kidnapper drinks the poison cup and then laughs insanely until he suddenly falls over dead? That was me going through the Bon Appetit lunch list. Only I’m not bald.

I especially like the way B.A.’s photo of the raisin-raspberry-nut-bacon sandwich includes weird jam drippings that look like blood spatters. That’s exactly what my head would look like after my kids bash it in because I sent this shit to school for them to eat.

* * * * * * *

Well then, I’m off to an excellent grumpy start. Wish me luck delivering my kids on time to their first day of school tomorrow.

grumpy about illegals (oh noooo not politics again!)

Yeah yeah yeah, I know I should stay off politics, but when you’re a half-breed like me, it’s hard to stay quiet on the issue of immigration, in this age of anti-immigrant trash talk.

My high school math teacher, Mr. C–, is a spectacular human being. Or at least, he was when I knew him. I think it’s no exaggeration to say that he changed the actual hardwiring of my brain. He was part mentor, part teacher, part friend. I already had a natural love of mathematics when I met him, but he added an element of joy to it for me, a sense of its connection to music and poetry, and a notion that it was okay to have a wide-eyed (or perhaps wild-eyed) curiosity about the magic of it all. He also loved wilderness, and he passed that on to me and many other students lucky enough to pass his way.

Hold on a second. I don’t remember where I was going with this.

Oh! Right. Life is so transformed by Facebook. A lot of peeps like to complain about Facebook, but I think it’s an amazing free amenity. I’ve reconnected with some really important people in my life thanks to it, including family members. And also Mr. C–, who eff-bee-friended me. So I get to see his feed now.

I’ve totally lost the thread of my thoughts. Maybe it’s the thinset I’ve been working with that’s making me woozy. Give me another second.

Oh! Right. So Mr. C posted up a photo.


Get it? Native American. Telling other people in America… You get it.

I’m not sure it had the intended effect on me. What it got me thinking about is fear. It doesn’t take much to make an illegal into a legal. The way I figure it — sitting here tonight in my ignorant, unread, off-the-cuff mindset — you only need three elements. One, a well-armed military that’s willing to kill a lot of people to free up some land. Two, a government that orders it to go ahead and do that, even when it’s in contravention of legal treaties. And three, a civilian population willing to go cultivate and live on the now-unpopulated land.

That’s how we did it here in the You-Ess-of-Ey. In middle school, I learned about Manifest Destiny. I remember the history teacher saying the two words over and over again, and having no idea what she meant. “What is the manifest destiny?” I kept wondering. Is it a document? A theory? A government policy? it didn’t seem like that’s what she was describing. I still remember the epiphany, the moment when I realized that all it meant was “what white people want.” Also it meant “GREED.” It was a strange feeling, being 13 and realizing this is how we justified taking all the land between the Pacific and the Atlantic.

I think bullies fear being bullied. And we’re a country of bullies. We kept human slaves long after most of the so-called “civilized world” had abandoned the practice. We got much of the land we wanted by taking it illegally, in violation of treaties we signed. Right from the beginning, our government and our military slaughtered and abused civilians and innocents, intentionally and with eyes wide open. We lied and made false promises. Our settlers moved into Indian territories and waited for the government to come get rid of the redskins. We took land that belonged to others. We did it by force, and we resorted to actions that, in the 21st century, would be called war crimes and terrorism. We are a world superpower, and we stand on the shoulders of people who engaged in great evil. It’s in our national DNA.

I don’t really think it’s economics or nationality or language issues or whatever that drives anti-immigration sentiment. Deep down, I think it’s simple fear. It’s no wonder so many Americans fear illegal immigrants. We know what we’re capable of. Maybe we think they’re capable of it too.

grumpy about the construction project (mechanicals!)

Forward HO, goes the renovation! It’s Mechanicals Week at the P-C abode. While Erick and Dan continue to look a little confused outside…


…plumbing, electricity, and HVAC runs have been filling the wall cavities inexorably, like colonizing mold spreading through the house.

Look at all that PVC and, and… what’s it called? FU cable? That can’t be right… UF-B. That’s it. Stern electrician guards the mechanicals.


All that junk is for just half the kitchen and mudroom:


Here’s some of the kitchen lighting going up into the ceiling joists. I thought those round things were called “recessed lights,” but if you’re a really cool construction cat, you call them “cans.” I thought a “can” was a toilet, but now I know it is also recessed lighting.


Check out all these lines. They are hanging down into our basement right now.


Eventually they’ll be attached to this monster circuit panel, which is as long as Nick is tall.


We also have some new HVAC runs, and a special HEPA filter on the furnace now.


I’m really excited about the HEPA filter. It felt like Christmas when Rick the HVAC guy carried it into the basement. I actually didn’t know Kristi-the-designer had spec’ed that in. I investigated it last night. There’s a massive cylindrical filter inside that needs to be changed every couple years. It looks to be about 18 inches in height and diameter, or thereabouts. If our dog got sucked into a vent (which is hypothetically possible because she’s so small), I know where to go looking for her in the HVAC system.

This cool flat metal thingy attached to the kitchen subfloor is where heating and a/c will blow into the kitchen, from under a cabinet’s toe kick. I didn’t know they could do that.


And just to make sure I know, the HVAC guy even labeled one of the new under-cabinet vents.


Mike the head electrician appears to really enjoy his work. He gets really, really into it. When he’s going on, talking about whatever electrical or lighting issue has captured his fancy in the moment, not even me calling him “Mr. Sparkles” stops him. And I like that he has blunt and honest reactions. I suggested an unattractive solution to a thorny problem involving where to put a light switch. He looked at me for about a 2-count, his face blank, and then said. “No. I won’t do that.”

I tried to get a good photo of Mike, but he kept turning away. I finally managed though, after he got an unanticipated shock from a live wire and was struck dumb for a moment. He wasn’t looking his best.


A little singed. Here’s  Mr. Sparkles before that incident, caressing some UF-B.


Just a few linear feet of cable in this frame, but Mike enthusiastically informed me a few days ago that by the time they’re done wiring up the new addition and replacing old wiring that’s been exposed, his crew will have installed MORE THAN 2000 LINEAR FEET OF CABLE. Whooooaaaa.

Last week I promised better photos of Bob the Plumber. Here he is posing in front of the weird shrink-a-dink dumpster. It’s something like two feet tall, but extremely long.


And his helper.


And here is Bob peering out the window of our future master bathroom. Everyone’s giggling in this picture and I don’t remember why.


Bob and Mike are perfect characters in my grumpy story. Each of them is a little grumpy, but under the veneer they’re delightful and honest. There’s no false friendliness that I can see, just false grumpiness. One day some guy I’d never seen before poked his head in from the garage. “Is the plumber here? I need him to move his truck.”

No one knew where Bob was so I yelled his name. “Bob? BOB??”

“What,” grunted a grumpy voice from somewhere nearby. It sounded and felt like my long-gone Dad was in the house. He used to sound just like that, grumpy outside and marshmallow inside.

I can’t blame anyone for being grumpy doing construction work. God knows I would be. I get grumpy just cleaning a toilet. But I observe that these mostly-monosyllabically-monikered peeps from different trades have an easy rapport with each other and get along really well. That’s such a pleasure to see, and it feels like good karma is flowing into the nooks and crannies of our soon-to-be-refurbished home.

grumpy about the construction project (random thoughts)

The electrician and plumber have been busy. Things are happening that I don’t understand. Like this:


Isn’t that beautiful plumbing? What is that copper doing? I don’t know. That’s why I’m paying someone else to do it.

Electrical wires and boxes are popping up all over the house. PVC pipes too. All over the place. At the end of each day Anthony and I go around sweeping up all the wood chips and peering curiously at new mechanical things.

Also the carpentry guys are still busy at it on the exterior. The roof is on. The siding is almost all on. Doors are going in.

But I still don’t have a kitchen. Or running water anywhere except in the basement. Someday soon, they keep promising me, someday soon. I assume someday also includes gutters and brick. I’m optimistic.


I have tool belt envy.

IMG_0217 IMG_0216 IMG_0215

As I took these photos, the guys remarked sagely on who has the best belt. I guess it’s a thing.

Erick Kurber the Karpenter Kaptain has a huge trailer he tows behind a huge truck every day, to bring all sorts of tools and stuff to the site. I have truck envy and trailer envy and tool envy, as well as tool belt envy, but I didn’t take a good collection of photos to show you all the jealousy-inpsiring implements showing up at my house. But here are a few highlights.

What IS it? I don’t rightly know… But I want one. Even the steel-framed sawhorses look fine fine fine.


What is that little orange thing peeking from below the wood shelf in the totally cool and awesome trailer? Mobile table saw? Tiny planer? No idea. Want one.


Erick did something inside the trailer that I consider to be very Martha Stewart: PVC pipes hung from the roof to hold things.  Awesome. Want.


As I was stalking Erick’s trailer to take these photos, I noticed the print on the trailer doors.


How can you not LOVE a contractor who quotes Aristotle on his truck?? ARISTOTLE, I tell you.

So much makes sense now. Just the other day, I heard Erick intoning as he stood on the roof. “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them!””

I thought at first he was giving Dan a lecture. He continued. “You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.”

Huh. Maybe this was a pep talk because the guys were getting nervous on the roof? That surprised me, because I had already noted that Talon has established his own gravitational field which allows him to stand at unexpected angles.


Still Erick continued. “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

I couldn’t stand it anymore. I ran out to the front lawn in my bare feet and yelled up at him. “Hey Erick, What the F&*%$?? Enough already! Can you cut it with the pompous lecture??”

Erick looked down at me, his nail gun held firm and high. “There is no great genius without a mixture of madness, Carla.”

* * * * * * *

We live in Wisconsin. Conversations like that don’t happen in Wisconsin, do they?

No. They don’t. I made that shit up. (Well, Aristotle made up the stuff inside the quotation marks.)

Here’s the other line on Erick’s trailer door.


Get it? Erick Kurber? Kurber Construction? Get it?

That’s more like it, and it’s even better than Aristotle. As an American immigrant to Wisconsin, I believe I can safely say that this logo line reflects something unique and wonderful in a Wisconsin-grown personality. It’s dry, understated, sensible, witty, and a little goofy in an English sort of way.

I think I like it here in Wisconsin.

grumpy about immigrants (because my peeps are a bunch of welfare-sucking, pride-less losers)

I’ve usually got my head buried in the sand when it comes to Immigrant Talk in American politics. It upsets me too much. Anti-immigrant bullshit is a personal insult to me and my not-white kin. The Donald can shove it all up his ying-yang.

But once in a while anti-immigrant sentiment rears its ugly head in unexpected places, like on my Facebook feed. Someone posts some anti-immigrant meme and, before I can shove my head firmly back in the sand, my eyeballs convert those stupid pixels into information that travels through my automated reading pathways and into my cognitive core. There’s nothing I can do to stop it. My (bilingual from birth) brain is THAT GOOD.

It happened to me today. Someone posted up a meme that said, “California offers their driver’s license exam in 32 different languages, which is 31 languages too many.” I’ve seen it before, but it got under my skin today.

I shook my head in disappointment and tried to run away from my beaten-down inner grammar nazi… to no avail. California is a state, which is neither a person nor a plural; so the meme should say “its” rather than “their.” Ugh. I tried to stop myself from thinking about the superfluous “different,” but I couldn’t. I sassed at the meme-writer silently in my mind. What if California offered the exam in 32 similar languages. Would that be okay? Or 32 of the same languages? And anyway, which one language does the meme-writer want left behind? The one he or she is butchering?

This all passed very quickly through my LIGHTNING-FAST (bilingual half-immigrant) MIND. Then I made a very bad mistake by scrolling down. My eyeballs once more picked up written words my brain did not need to see or comprehend, but it was too late. Information streamed into my gray matter. Immigrants don’t take pride in the USA. They come here to SUCK the welfare system and tax-funded assistance dry. We are being flooded by non-English speaking immigrants! And so on. All of which has little, if anything, to do with the question of whether a driver’s test should be given in a language other than English.

To be clear, the diatribe didn’t refer to “illegal immigrants” but to “immigrants.”

Well DAMN. Who knew?

Who knew that my mom and her family came here to suck the welfare system dry? All those years of hard work, paying taxes, becoming American citizens, not getting welfare… They were kidding themselves. Hosebags all, my Korean family.

My grandmother became an American citizen in her 80’s.  It was an extraordinary moment of pride for her, but she took the test in Korean. She didn’t move to the states until her late 50’s; learning a new language at that age is really hard, if not practically impossible. The fact that grandma probably knew American history better than most American-born high school grads? Whatever. LOSER. NO PRIDE IN THE USA. WELFARE-SUCKER. No speakie English? No goodie American!

Who knew that the lovely Mexican family living down the street from me is sucking our taxpayer system dry? They moved here a few years ago because the dad has an executive-level position at GE or some other major corporation around here. Their kids go to the same public school as Jesse and Nick. The mom barely speaks English, but she does her best to get by.  She is an absolutely delightful woman, pleasant and kind, who volunteers time at the school whenever she can. Whatever. Immigrant public school LEECHES, just another drop in the flood.

Who knew that the Italian, Brazilian, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Indian immigrant professors I know from Anthony’s workplace are sucking our system dry? I thought they were hard-working people, earning income, paying taxes, buying houses, purchasing goods and helping drive the economy — you know, doing that immigrant thing. I thought they came here for an education and jobs. Nah. I know why they came now. To SUCK THE USA DRY. I bet they even use made-in-the-USA roads to commute to work. Welfare suckers.

The emotions I feel when I hear broad-stroke anti-immigrant talk require a vast array of adjectives to describe fully. I am insulted, affronted, angry, exasperated, outraged, mystified, even contemptuous. Do people who make these broad, hateful statements even understand how offensive they are?

Xenophobia is so last century. The following statements should be trite asides, truisms everyone knows to be true, part of the magic mythology of America, the rainbow thing that makes us a nation full of ever-changing potential. Repeat after me:

immigrants make our country stronger, not weaker.

Diversity makes our country stronger, not weaker.

Bilingual and multi-lingual children (and adults) have more opportunities, not fewer.

Open arms make us stronger, not weaker.

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Wait. That giant lady out east with that enormous stinking flame? She’s from France. Send her back.

grumpy about the construction project (very, very grumpy)

It’s been a long spring and summer. I looked through calendars and blog posts today to see if my mind is stretching the time unfairly, but no. We first started ripping out carpet in April. That’s also when we all five (two parents, two kids, dog) started sleeping in one room as we began preliminary DIY demolition for this interminable project. So we’ve been sleeping together for almost five months now.

No wonder we’re all going crazy. If you’re thinking about going full-on paleo and sleeping in a room together with your extended family like cavemen did, just go for it why don’t you. My bet? You’ll start embracing the idea of rapid evolution soon enough. I’m certainly ready for the next evolution in my life.

The professional crews started visiting us mid-June, and internal major demolition kicked off in early July or thereabouts. Everything moved along smoothly until some electrical issues arose. We need to upgrade to 200 amp service because of the change in where the power line comes into the house. That’s really a good thing, but it required several iterations of inspection and work, inspection and work. I can’t recall all the details, but here are the parts that really matter (I think I mostly have the facts right, but you’ll forgive me if my grumpy got in the way of me remembering some details squarely):

Our carpenters did as much work as they could before the electrical line was moved. They left it where it was, which means it was coming out of a hole in the roof. Can you see the line in this picture? It’s a little fuzzy, but it hits the house just where the blue tarp abuts the new plywood roof sheathing:


The plumber and electrician won’t do their major work until the roof is on. I get it. They can’t do their work and then have it get all wet. The roofer couldn’t and wouldn’t do the roofing until that line was moved. Because you know, it’s coming out of a hole in the sheathing. I get it.

So work ground to a halt. I got the feeling everyone was stunned and paralyzed by our city and utility company for taking so long. Because what could we do about it? Meanwhile, every time it rains, water comes in the house. And, although prior Augusts have been pretty dry around here, for the past couple weeks we’ve been subjected to torrential thunderstorms, dumping kazillions of gallons of water every couple days on our poor, unprotected shell and leaving our newly installed studs and subfloors saturated and puddling.

* * * * * *

It turns out this is what was going on with the electrical stuff, timeline-wise:

Last week of July: our electrician Mike installed a new circuit panel for 200 amp service, and then he called the city’s contracting inspection service to set up the “service rough” inspection, “OH to OH”, which I think means overhead-to-overhead in reference to the line coming into the house. This inspection had to happen before WE Energies could come move the line, so that then our roof could go on.

Monday, August 3: the inspector came to our house. The carpentry crew greeted him and he did his thing. Which apparently was a “rough electrical” inspection instead of what Mike asked for. But it is obvious just standing in the kitchen entry that there has been no rough electrical work done. There are bare lines, exposed during demolition, dangling everywhere. They look like this:


And this:


You don’t need any electrical expertise to “fail” this inspection. Any reasonable inspector would have suspected something was amiss and called around to make sure he was doing the right thing. But no. This inspector “failed” us and then “failed” to post anything in the house to inform us, like the big red “FAIL” sticker our contractors look for.

Tuesday, August 4: Mike called the city to see what happened, because the inspector left no evidence of his visit. The city lady shuffled papers and told Mike everything was fine.

The rest  of the week, Mike hassled various people trying to find out when WE was going to get to our house to move the line.

Monday, August 10: Mike called WE again to find out why in the world they weren’t scheduling our work. Duh, said WE. You failed your inspection.


Mike followed up immediately with the city and learned what had actually happened a week ago. The inspector scheduling lady told him we’d have to have a new inspection now, because the inspector did the wrong thing. So Mike ordered that.

Wenesday, August 12: The inspector finally called Mike back to schedule the inspection. For Friday, August 14. Yes, at least two weeks after Mike’s first request for an inspection.

This is when the shit hit my fan and I emailed our alderman to complain. I don’t know if it made any difference, but it was necessary to release Snarla from her cage so that my body didn’t fall into an apoplectic fit and stroke out.

Friday, August 14: The inspector finally came! He refused to make eye contact with me when he came into the house; in fact, he refused to acknowledge I existed, eve though I was standing one foot from him as he walked through my basement. I don’t know if that’s normal for him, or if it’s because of what I understood to be some nasty conversations between him, the inspection company, and some city employees earlier in the week, as a result of my email.

I had dim hopes that WE would arrive Friday afternoon to do their thing and move that blasted power line, but they didn’t. So over the weekend, I released Snarla once more and she sent a nasty-email-gram to the city inspection guy, encouraging him to inspire WE to come on Monday. I embraced a somewhat tacky tactic: I used words and phrases I thought might get a rise, like “mold,” “water damage”, and “increased costs resulting from the delays caused by your inspector’s failure to complete the inspection properly.” I made no direct threats. But I admit that litigation has crossed my mind frequently in recent days

Monday, August 17: Around 9:00 a.m., someone knocked on the door. When I answered it, I saw a fellow in a hard hat and utility trucks on the street. I opened the door and hit the hallelujahs. “You’re heeeeere!!” I keened. “I am sooo happy to see you that I could hug you!!! But I won’t because you would think that’s weird, huh??? You are making so many people happy by being here today!!!”

Hard hat man nodded drily and tried to look nonchalant, or maybe he looked a little anxious and aloof. At least that’s what I thought at first, but then I remembered he was a Wisconsinite. He warmed up quickly and wandered the house with me to figure out what they had to do. As I told him about our travails with water in the house and how long it had taken to get this work scheduled, he asked incredulously, “Why did it take your contractor so long to get us out here?”

* * * * * *

But we’re back on the map now. The plumber and carpenter are working again. The electrician should start soon. The roofing guys are apparently stuck in a scheduling nightmare (because they understandably moved on to other work while our job stalled out), so our trusty carpentry crew stepped in — the three musketeers. The three stooges? Los tres caballeros?

Oh no I didn’t! That’s just rude, Carla.

Here they are, Erick, Dan, and Talon, doing their thing. Three men and their ladders, not too macho to extend a loving hand to each other:


Erick doing his Fiddler on the Roof thing:


Dan implores Erick/Tevye to rethink his position on his daughter Hodel’s engagement:


I caught the guys doing their daily Construction Pilates class this afternoon, even as they began installing the final layers of the roofing. Core strength is so important.


As they wind down with their stretching in the shot below, you can see Bob the Plumber peaking out the window — he’s a bit shadowy, but it’s the best I could do. I’ll get a better pic of this friendly plumber soon:


By the way, look at this lovely architectural detail on the exterior of the addition, to capture the peaked lines of the house and deflect attention from the flatter, uglier shed dormer line. Hand built piece by piece, by Erick and crew.


Bob has been busy doing plumber stuff. Lots of angles and bends. I don’t get how they do it, but look at this beautiful work: IMG_0195


I can already imagine our family’s poo and pee going down that massive drain stack, and sewer gas going up the new vent stack.

* * * * * *

Meanwhile, we’re still struggling to keep it together in this deconstructed home.

Here’s the view from our living room these days:


Yup. That’s the inside of the garage at the end of the view (past the still-boxed kitchen cabinets and the hollowed out future mudroom). Al fresco.

Here’s our future garage door, sitting approximately 8 feet away from its eventual location.



“Door, install thyself!”

And the hole that will eventually be the door out of the kitchen to our back yard:


At the end of each work day, the crew attaches a piece of plywood there to keep out large critters. The little ones make it in through the garage, but Jesse has caught all the toads and taken them back out to the woods.

It’s all good.

in the land of Nick…

Yes, I have a son. His name is Nick. Jesse is not my only child, nor my most favored. She just makes me more grumpy than Nick, so she provides more fodder for this forum.

But Nick is annoying too, just in a less disastrous way. He keeps things in perspective. Today at the swimming pool, as Jesse ran off screaming about her french fries and dripping ice cream, Nick stood close to me as we watched her shrink away on the lawn. He sang a song made up on the spot. The tune sounded pretty cheerful, but the lyrics went like this:

Jesse messes up everything,
Jesse makes things not much fun,
It’s no fun doing things with Jesse,
But that is just my life…

A jaded, sardonic six-year-old with a sense of humor is a rare commodity. I do treasure mine.

Today was a pretty typical day for Nick. He walked into the bathroom shortly after breakfast and hollered out to me. “I GOING TO POOP, MOMMY.”

“OKAY, YOU DO THAT! I’LL BE THERE IN A MINUTE TO WIPE YOU!” I hollered back from my seat right here next to the computer.

But then just 10 or 15 seconds later he was standing beside me, cheerful and light-hearted.

“Did you go poop already?”

“Noooo. I was just kidding.” This is one of his things. He thinks it’s funny to tell me he’s going to poop when he doesn’t actually have to.

He smiled. “Only… I don’t know why, but when I sat down I got all wet.”

“Where did you sit down?”

“On the potty.”


“Was the seat cover down?”

Blank, innocent stare. Eyelashes batting.

“Did you forget to pull your pants down when you tried to poo??”

Now Nick was defensive. “No! I did not have to poo! I was only joking!”

“Did you sit down on the potty without pulling down your pants???”

Shoulder shrug and more eyelashes. “Maybe.”

Sigh. There was nothing for it. I investigated. Nick’s undies and shorts were soaked. There was a huge puddle of pee in front of the toilet and all over the seat and toilet itself. I deduce that Nick sat on the potty to pretend he was pooping, but then actually peed, emptying a bloated bladder in a powerful spray that exploded out of his pants.

An hour later, he walked into the bathroom again. We share the one functioning toilet in our house with our construction crews; I’d rather do that than have a port-a-potty. As the door opened, I heard Nick’s lilting little voice. “OOOOh, there is someone in here!” I looked over. He was standing in the doorway. There was a tone of true curiosity in his voice. “I think he is using the potty!” Nick started to walk into the bathroom. WTF?

I yelled in a panic, “GET OUT of the bathroom, Nick, and CLOSE THE DOOR! Give the poor man some privacy!!!”

“Oooooh.” Nick backed out slowly, grabbing his crotch in a familiar, urgent gesture. I sent him straight out back to pee on a tree. He trotted off cheerfully. I tried not to look over at the bathroom door for a long, long time, and whoever was in there eventually left without a word. Thankfully, I never saw who it was.

Meanwhile, Nick disappeared into the woods out back. Eventually he emerged from the trees covered in little prickly seed burrs, which I had to pick off his clothing one by one. He was perfectly content.

My little joker.


What a beautiful lightness he brings to my life, to offset Jesse’s dark soul. His glass is almost always full, no matter what’s actually in it. Sunshine to Jesse’s moonshine. Yin to her yang — or yang to her yin, depending on the day.


I don’t know if I would be making it, without him.

grumpy about mental health stigma (quasi-guest blog!)

I am always amazed by how much stigma is attached to mental illness. Behavioral disorders like ADHD and autism have gained more traction in mainstream thinking, or so it seems to me. If your kid is diagnosed with ADHD or autism, you get additional school resources, special ed help, and access to pretty well-developed resources and support mechanisms. And lots of social support these days. Still not hardly perfect, but better than it was.

But issues like tic disorders, anxiety, and depression are still more taboo, and our children who suffer from them have few rights in school systems, which are sort of bellwethers of social acceptance. Even if kids are diagnosed officially, they’re not entitled to any special assistance or resources in schools unless they completely fall apart and become non-functioning human beings. So parents like me are stuck sort of lobbying and begging teachers to go along with what we say our kids need, and hoping they do it without bringing their own not-expertise to bear (I’ve stopped counting the number of times teachers have known better than me how to handle Jesse’s anxiety issues), which just adds to the feeling of STIGMA.

And we all know stigmatized people don’t exist in a vacuum. Those of us who befriend them, or are born to them as family, suffer along with them.

It sucks, which is why I choose to be so naked about mental illness in my family. We are going to own our crazy, along with our grumpy. Jesse should never be ashamed of being born with a brain that leans the way it does, or of needing help to overcome the challenges her brain and body present to her — any more than a person should be ashamed of being born with a missing limb or green eyes or a defective heart or cystic fibrosis. What is, is. I should never feel ashamed of how difficult it is to be an effective parent for Jesse. But it is a hard, hard thing, overcoming stigmata.

* * * * * * * *

One of the most delightful aspects of my emotional nudity is the feedback I get from parents who are struggling with their own kids. Some like sharing, some like knowing they aren’t alone, some are relieved to have found a person who can offer a referral to a good shrink. Some just open up and tell me about their own childhood struggles with depression or anxiety. I know it sounds twisted, but I love hearing about it all. I love knowing that I’m not alone, that there’s a thriving cohort of pretty fucked up people out there, getting along just fine.

Just this week I received a very open-hearted private note from a mom Somewhere Else in America. She told me about her own struggles with a challenging, explosive child. It made me laugh a little and cry a little, for her and for myself, for our families and our children. it made me feel less alone, and less of a failure, and also it gave me some ideas to think about. In particular, this mom has used some energy recently to take care of herself and improve her own outlook, which is in turn helping her kids. It’s a trickle-down theory that doesn’t sound or feel like economic bullshit.

There are so many of us drowning in this crazy, crazy world. If only we could speak openly with each other about our challenges, it would all be so much easier. Along these lines, Somewhere Else mom gave me permission to reprint her note, so here it is (with identifying information changed), as a sort of guest blog post. If you’ve ever felt like your kid “takes a big shit on your day” more often than seems reasonable, maybe it’ll help you a little, as I hope my tales do too.

* * * * * * * *

I would like to tell you a little about myself. I’m a 45 year old housewife from —. I have been married for 17 years and have 3 kids. Eric is 14 and going into 9th grade. Straight A’s super athlete well liked. Harriet is 7. Cute and so sweet. And I have Hayden. He just turned 13 a few weeks ago. Going into 8th grade. He’s smart creative and very funny. He’s also a huge mystery to me. I swear he came out of my womb pissed off at the world and not much has changed. He has extreme anxiety which he tries to hide and has the ability to make our home life hell. He has very dark moods and can be very destructive. He doesn’t hurt others yet but breaks his favorite toys and destroys his room and doors and walls when he has one of his episodes. He usually saves these behaviors for home and especially me. He acts like he hates me often. Probably because I usually have to be the “enforcer”. Believe me I’m as sick of it as he is.

We went to a small elementary school. One teacher per grade. All was good until 4th grade and school life went to shit. He was in the office several days a week. I also volunteer several days a week and the behaviors he was in trouble for were mostly little boy BS. By sixth grade I had enough. Like you I’m not opposed to meds but resistant. My husband comes from a family that believes herbs and diet can cure anything. We tried everything. Nothing worked. They actually tried to cure a schizophrenic cousin with herbs and she ended up in a state hospital for 4 months. My husband was worried that if we got a diagnosis he would be “labeled”. We knew he had ADHD anxiety and was starting to show signs of OCD. I took him to his pediatrician and he diagnosed him with ADHD. Against everyone’s wishes I put him on a non amphetamine med. it was a few months till summer and we agreed we’d see how it worked and take him off for the summer. The changes were minor .

Then 7th grade which is jr high here. Things really took a nosedive. I mentioned his siblings because as a typical middle child he lives in the huge shadow of his super successful brother and became even more resentful of his sweet little sister. His anxiety and dark dangerous behaviors escalated. He made every morning trying to get to school hell. I used to think “he just took a big shit on my day once again”. I think he had a total of 42 absences in first period last year. Several F’s. He started cutting himself. I got the school psychologist involved so we could get a proper diagnosis and maybe get him into a study skills class to help with organization. Big fail. That teacher truly hated him. She would put his name on blank papers and turn them in so he would get zeros. After many tearful meetings nothing changed. At the end of the year we have equivalency exams. He got all A’s. During this time he started cutting himself. Lots of self hate talk but not suicide so no hospital would take him. OCD got worse. He flat refuses counseling. We tried “tapping”. For anxiety. A bust. Acupuncture, nope.

I feel like it’s my fault. If I was just a better mom this wouldn’t be happening. Did I do something when I was pregnant? What am I doing wrong? My patience with him was gone. I yelled at him constantly. I mention his siblings because they are so affected by this too. His brother wants to kick his ass for being so awful to me. My daughter is just scared and cries. My husband says if I were more positive he would be too. Maybe?

I was just feeling hopeless and helpless. I was drinking to cope and said mean awful things to Hayden I am not proud of. Then I got sick. Really sick. I knew something was wrong for the last couple of years but was scared to go to the dr. This summer it got really bad. I lost 20 lbs in 3 weeks and looked like a ghost. My parents made me go to their dr and it was the best decision I’ve made in a long time.

What I have is totally curable but this wonderful Dr recognized something else in me. I was so stressed out. My anxiety levels off the charts. I was having panic attacks. I suffered from these things many years ago but didn’t want to admit it was back. I thought it was just stress. He gave me a few different things but the meds I was so against taking have literally changed my life.

It’s only been a month but I feel like I’m free. My husband said he was so glad to have his wife back. I haven’t yelled at my kids. My patience is back. I feel so positive and motivated. Of all the things I could do to help Hayden I would never have imagined this would be it. I make a point to talk with him often. I’m trying to find ways to get in sync w him so maybe, just maybe we can work things out without fighting. Im still going to keep trying to get him to counseling. The Dr I saw said he would take him on and try to put counseling in a perspective he can understand and not fear. Regarding meds for Hayden my thoughts have changed a little. I wouldn’t love to do it but wow! I am amazed at what a help they’ve been to me in such a short period of time.

I don’t know what your daughter’s issues are and I hope I haven’t offended you in any way. I think as moms we put so much pressure on ourselves to have perfect kids. I just wanted to tell you what has helped me. I have No delusions that this is going to fix Hayden. But health issues and all I am so much happier. I think that’s a good start for my son myself and my family. Hang in there. Life is stressful so are kids and marriage. But we can do it. We have to, right?

* * * * * * * *

That’s right, Somewhere Else mom. We can do it because we have to. It sounds like you’re doing all the right things. Thanks for sharing your story and becoming part of my lifeline.

The meds are on

Anthony went to the psychiatrist with Jesse today and walked out with a prescription for Citalopram, one of those SSRIs (Selective Seretonin Reuptake Inhibitor, and yes, I have no idea what that means). It’s an anti-depressant, also used to treat anxiety and other behavior and mood disorders with kids. As far as I can tell, the research is still out. Giving kids meds like this is a bit like throwing shit at the wall. At least, that’s what I’ve decided today.

I am profoundly resistant to medications of this sort. I use the word “resistant” purposefully, in lieu of “opposed.” There is a small rational part of me that understands that, for some kids, meds like this are part of a healthy journey. I would never judge another parent for turning to meds. But my instincts are so vested in not doing this. It feels like the ultimate statement in parenting failure — because if only I were a better mother, then Jesse wouldn’t need drugs.

Jesse is also resistant to the meds. She thinks they’ll make her drool. I suggested that drooling might be an improvement over her crazy yawping and penis talk, and more important, maybe it would be good if the meds help her stop hating herself so much.

I asked Anthony to do some more research, and some more research, and then some more research before we start dosing her. I said SSRIs come with a lot of risks, and if it doesn’t go well then weaning Jesse will be hard too. I reminded him that, although I talked about meds as an option a couple weeks ago, I quickly backtracked and changed my mind. My man nodded and looked at me thoughtfully, and mostly said nothing. But then tonight at dinner time he quietly cut one of the pills in half and handed it to Jesse with a glass of water.

An old friend of mine whose opinion I respect suggested that I trust Anthony on this. It’s wise advice, since I can’t see very clearly right now. Jesse feels lost to me, and I’m in this sad, broken place where I assume ordinary parents like me go to when our children fall apart. I can’t think straight. I can’t parse through the data. I can’t make good decisions. I just feel emotionally flayed.

I’ve gone to therapy with Jesse almost every week for nearly five years now. I’ve done my best; but it hasn’t amounted to much. I’ve failed too often, broken promises to myself and my children, yelled too much, found patience and insight too infrequently. It must be my fault that we’re reduced to purchasing a medication — mass-produced by some indifferent pharmaceutical giant and hawked to our health insurer so effectively that we only pay 28 cents a month for it — to try to fill the gap left by my horrific parenting.

28 cents for a month. That’s all it takes.

Anthony argued gently with me this morning. “You’ve tried everything already, Carla.”

I answered in earnest. “Then I have to try harder.”

Anthony just looked at me sadly. I didn’t rightly know what he was thinking.

But he gave Jesse her first dose of Citalopram tonight. 5 milligrams, half of the recommended minimum dose. Just a baby step on the road to… Drug dependency? Emotional wellness?

I looked away, fussed about the room, disappeared myself as this abomination of a moment passed.

And then I wept. Several times. I’m still weeping, right now.

After the kids were asleep I asked Anthony for more details about their visit to the shrink. “Did you tell her how I’ve messed things up?” I asked.

“No. But I did tell her that you’re way too hard on yourself.” Or maybe he said too self-critical. i don’t remember exactly, because it broke me.

I buried my face on Anthony’s shoulder and wept. It’s all my fault, I told him.

“No. It’s not,” he answered gently as we held each other. I wept and wept and wept.

But it is all my fault. I’m too weak to even give Jesse the meds she probably needs to get her through this. I’m too weak and scared to support this decision.

Good thing Anthony’s on it. I think I’ll trust him on this one, for now.

I’d like my Jesse back, please.

A day (of almost grace) in a life

7:00 am. I wake to the sound of something beating on the wall. I assume it’s Jesse kicking the wall viciously, which I’m used to, but I look over and she’s still sound asleep. Ah. It’s the construction crew getting to work. A few minutes later everyone wakes up and Jesse starts hollering about the noise. I dress and head out the door. 10 feet away, Erick-the-Carpenter is getting things going with his crew. I shuffle in with my morning breath, bed head, and crusty eyes to chat with him about a cubbie that’s going in the master bedroom they’re working on. I try not to scratch in ignominious spots as my body slowly wakes up. I’m vaguely humiliated but the conversation has to happen. Erick manages not to snicker openly at my appearance, for which I’m deeply grateful.

I’ve made a commitment to myself to engage in maximum helicopter parenting for a while. Jesse needs help identifying and foreseeing her flash points, and then managing her reactions. I’m on it today.

8:35 am. We head out the door for summer camp at the Audubon nature center. It’s been a pretty smooth morning. We’re all permanently on edge because of Jesse’s behaviors, but she’s only had one break-on-the-stairs so far, and she and Nick have played well together in our efficiency-apartment basement. I’m all over them, helping them iron out problems with sharing and personal space.

The car ride goes surprisingly well. Jesse doesn’t do anything too awful and Nick isn’t too annoying.

Yesterday before we got in the car, I asked Jesse to first take deep breaths and think about how she would go about not attacking Nick in the car. I saw her standing next to the car door, breathing and thinking peacefully. As I walked over I noticed Nick. He was already in the car. He was pressing his face up against the closed car window beside Jesse and and slapping his palms on the glass, yelling “TAKE DEEP BREATH-ESS! TAKE DEEP BREATH-ESS!”

Today goes better than that.

9:30: I’ve dropped the kids off. They seem to be enjoying my extreme hands-on parenting. They can’t get enough of it. Jesse went into her camp classroom and seemed happy to be there. In fact, she seemed glad to see me go, thus displaying the independence one associates with beautifully parented, self-confident children. Nick refused to let me enter his classroom. He kissed me in the hallway and said firmly, “mommy, you stop right there. Don’t come in!”

During the next two hours, I buy and deliver some donuts for the work crew at the house; hit Home Depot to pick up door handles and start spying out tile tools and toilets; stop by Trader Joes for some basic eats; run by the house to drop cold groceries off and get the dog outside to pee; and do some quick searches about tile on the computer. La la la.

11:45 am: I pick Nick up from his camp class and we head downstairs to find Jesse. She’s peaceful enough that we’re able to stay for half an hour after camp in one of the outdoor preschool classrooms (a play area, really). Other kids are there, including a little five-year-old named Charlie who’s wearing the same taekwondo “board break-a-thon” t-shirt as me. “Heeey!” he exclaims in delight, because we all train at the same academy. We bow to each other. “Pilsung!” He shows us his kicks. Jesse is a perfect senior taekwondo student: she praises him without exaggerating and encourages him with a big smile.

The kids get along really well. Superficially, Jesse and Nick are ideal children. They play cooperatively and without bossing; they watch out for the littlest ones and make sure they’re included; if a big kid takes something from a little kid, they go retrieve it and give it back; when someone’s hurt, they’re attentive and caring. But I have to watch Jesse like a hawk. She veers towards hostile with Nick a few times. I call her over each time I see her swerve and remind her to back off, make distance from Nick, and calm herself. Remarkably, she does it.

12:30 pm: carpenters and plumbers are busy at the house today, so I don’t want to take the kids home just yet. We head over to Qdoba and Noodles & Company. Jesse gets her new favorite lunch, a not-much-cheese chicken quesadilla, and we carry it next door to Noodles. After we order Nick’s lunch, we settle at a table outside. When the food comes, the kids are sweet and well-mannered, and Jesse remembers to say “thank you!” A few minutes later the server comes back with two giant chocolate chip cookies for the kids. “You are such well-mannered children and so sweet! So I thought you deserved a treat and wanted to give you these!”

Jesse’s face lights up — no, her whole body lights up with a brief, radiant moment of pride. She and Nick stare at the cookies greedily.

“Thank you so much!” I tell server lady. “You are so kind!”

And then I have to do the nasty deed. “But we can’t have the cookies because Jesse has a severe egg allergy.”

The kids’ faces collapse. I want to cry. I guess I could just say thank you and let server lady walk away, but it seems wrong to accept her generosity superficially and then throw out the cookies.

Server lady keeps a smile on her face, but the collective disappointment is palpable. Server lady doesn’t give up. “Oh I’m sorry. I wish there were some other treat we had that I could give you!”

I speak up, against my nature. I don’t like handouts and I don’t like asking for free things and it’s hard, but I do it. “Well… They can have your rice krispy treats, and I’m sure they would love it if they don’t have to share this one rice krispy treat that I bought.”

Server lady is on it. She’s back a moment later with a second rice krispy treat the size of a burrito. Jesse fondles it and declares that it is covered in love. It is the most delicious rice krispy treat ever. Jesse can’t wipe the smile off her face for a good five minutes.

1:30: We stop by home ever so briefly to pick up the kids’ iPads so they have something to do in the doctor’s office. Anything to  keep them from playing with the toys in the waiting area. I will never understand toys in a pediatric waiting area. Germs. Why.

1:45: Jesse has two plantar warts that won’t go away, one on the ball of her foot and the other on the bottom of her big toe. Pediatrician Dr. Linsmeier gives those warts a hard burn with liquid nitrogen. Jesse has an extreme tolerance for pain and doesn’t shed a tear. The only evidence of pain is a single twitch and an almost inaudible mutter. “That hurts.”

Dr. Linsmeier shows the kids what’s inside the bottle she was shooting ice from. It looks like water. She does her magic trick and flings the contents across the floor! Most of the nitrogen disappears in an instant and a ghostly fog forms across the exam room floor. A few drops of nitrogen stay liquid and bounce around on the floor. Dr. Linsmeier is the most awesome doctor ever.

2:30: We head home. The construction crew is winding down and the house is a mess. Everyone is a bit tired, and I have to focus on cleaning up. Jesse struggles to keep it together. She spends some quality time outside by herself, and then she requests Alvin and the Chipmunks. Because she knows quality Hollywood when she sees it.

4:00: Daddy’s home!! Anthony has come home early because it’s school registration day. But first he and I discuss the eating bar that’s going in our future kitchen. There’s turmoil over its shape and depth, because the wall its abutting isn’t going to be as wide as originally planned and yadda yadda. I want Anthony to decide, since the bar is his thing, but he’s being weirdly fussy about it. This annoys me no end, and I think he’s feeling cornered somehow. I just want him to make all the decisions, and I want them to be good ones. Is that too much to ask?

4:30: Although Alvin is COMPELLING viewing, we pause the movie and drive over to the middle school where registration is going on. I have remembered that taking school photos at registration is a flashpoint for Jesse. She hates being directed to sit in awkward positions and being told to smile over and over. It makes her all crazy inside. Last year I ignored everything to do with school photos.

This year, I plan ahead. We talk about the hurdle. We see the hurdle, we decide to jump it, and we come up with ideas for how best to jump. No cows are involved.

Nick tries to help Jesse by demonstrating how to smile for the camera. It looks something like this.


Jesse practices.


Does she seem stressed out in this photo?

When it’s time to take the photo at registration, Jesse shows masterful emotional control. She grins, she smiles, she laughs, she goes along with the directions to tilt this way and that and turn this way and that. It goes super smoothly. I could not be more proud of her. Baby steps.

Nick also handles his photos well. He puts on his rictus grin and wiggles. Anthony tries to make him smile more naturally by being silly behind the photographer, and Nick responds in kind. He poses with his mouth wide open. He juts his hip and throws his hands up in mock surprise. The photographers are patient. “Let’s try again. Ok. Try again. Yup. Let’s try that again.” Nick is upbeat the whole time. Unlike Jesse, he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the photos or the photo shoot. He truly, completely does not care. He doesn’t care that anyone else cares. He doesn’t care how the photo turns out. He’s just going along because he’s having fun watching all the adults try to make him do something he’s not doing. He’s a school photo sociopath.

5:30: We’re back home and it’s time for dinner. I have some aging thick-cut bacon in the fridge, along with chicken I took out of the freezer two days ago. It must be cooked. I fire up the grill and get the bacon on there on a cast iron pan. Quick marinade for the chicken, camping style: ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, pepper, lemon juice, paprika. Done. I chop farmshare beets, potatoes and carrots to roast. I’ve also got a big cabbage from last week’s farmshare box, and I have to do something with it. So I make a cole slaw, with some onion, garlic, and grated carrot thrown in. The farmshare box also contained something that looks like dill gone to seed. I pull the seeds off and grind them up with a mortar and pestle. I don’t think it’s dill after tasting it, but I throw it in the slaw anyway.

While all this fantastic cooking is happening, random shit is going on around me. I lose track of interruptions. But overall, Jesse is doing really well. I’m still helicoptering and helping Nick and her manage things. It’s been Jesse’s best day in probably a full month, even though Nick is being more annoying than usual, and I’d like to bring it in strong. But something happens; I don’t remember what. Something Anthony says irritates me beyond reason. I step outside and spend 15 minutes or more wandering around the yard and pulling a weed here and there. Also collecting Japanese beetles in a little bucket of soapy water. When I come back in the house, no one seems to have noticed my absence. Excellent.

8:00 p.m. Watermelon. Everyone wants watermelon.

8:10 p.m. Jesse comes up behind me. I think she’s going to hug me. Instead, she screams as loud as she can directly into my ear. It’s excruciating and vicious. I refuse to accept her apology.

Everything unravels for the next half hour as Jesse refuses to follow directions, refuses to stay away from us, and does a lot of mean things — more screaming in ears, hitting and kicking, and a full-on tantrum that results in me putting her on the front porch. Eventually, she settles onto the sofa in the living room to read some of her book. Nick settles into bed in our one bedroom and watches an episode of Dinosaur Train while Anthony and I clean floors and get water and fold laundry. On one trip past Jesse, I ask her if I can give her a kiss goodnight. She shakes her head no. I’m filled with sadness. i try to hide it as I speak. Jesse, I wish you could come upstairs and be with us. If you can just be gentle. We all want you with us. We want you to share quiet evenings with us at bedtime.

9:00: Jesse comes upstairs. Not exactly meek, but she’s trying as hard as she can. It’s been a long day with a lot of little challenges, and she’s emotionally exhausted. I realize that I am too. She crawls under the covers and watches the end of Dinosaur Train. I sneak into bed next to her and spoon up behind her for a bit. I bury my nose in her beautiful brown hair, close my eyes, and whisper, “I love you, Jesse.” I don’t know if she hears me. I don’t know if she believes me.

There are a few yawps and threats, but Jesse hangs on by a thread and falls asleep in our bedroom with us. It’s the first time in a long time, and I’m grateful.

Baby steps.