Going Dark: Day The Last

It’s January 31st. This is the last night of our going dark challenge. Neither kid is with us tonight to offer some illuminating thought about the process. I guess it’ll just be up to Gaby and me to tell you about our experience.

The first two weeks were hard. I don’t think we even cheated in that time. We got some cards and letters. We played some board games. It was hard adjusting to the kids’ constant conversation about things we don’t always care about. Gaby worked her ass off making bread. We even cleaned a lot more than usual. We sat around the kitchen table together, wondering what to do with our time. We lamented about how we missed the screens.

After the 15th, we got a little looser with our rules. Gaby checked and used her phone all day since it was her birthday. I did the same for mine on the 18th.

I admit that I streamed some spotify once or twice to my sweet bluetooth speaker. I used my phone several time to set my fitbit alarm so as not to wake up the whole house (cats included) super early in the morning. Some of those times, I accidentally hit the facebook app button.

The kids, I know without asking, have enjoyed having a home phone. Cyrus loves to answer it and hang up immediately if you’re not someone living in this house, Erika’s dad, or my parents. But, honestly, when he talks to Mom and Dad he is usually very short with his conversation. “HellOOOOOO. Hi. Do you love the Cardinals? By the way, bye!”

I’m pretty sure Erika cheated last weekend when she had a friend over; they slept in the basement and I found the t.v (and every single fucking light) on the next morning. We never confronted her.

Gaby is scrolling through her phone right now. So. I guess we’re really done.

I’ve missed Netflix. A lot. And turning on the t.v. on Sundays just to see what noise is on. We have only local channels, but sometimes I enjoy a random college basketball game. I don’t care about football, but the noise sounds like home. Cyrus, of course, loves to watch a full game.

Cyrus has missed video games, but has been amazing at self monitoring. If he sees a phone lying around, he tattles, “Ummmmm, you said no electronics…”  This morning he asked if the stove is an electronic.

The thing I’ve enjoyed most is not having a t.v. or video game on right after school, or coming home from work. We’ve eaten dinners together. At the beginning, we played games and wrote letters after dinner. Then, well, we just started going to bed earlier. Like old time farmers. It’s dark, so there’s nothing to do but sleep.

Erika has been reading a little bit more and going to sleep around 8:30 because that’s when Gaby and I go to sleep now (since I get up at 4:30 most of the week). With it still being pretty dark here in the evenings, Cyrus goes to sleep well before 8. It’s 7:00 p.m. right now, and I’m ready to call it a day.

I’ve been reading, too. I read one whole book, 3/4 of another, and maybe 1/4 of a new one. That’s a whole lot for me. I haven’t read this much since grad school. And, as some of you have asked: I finished Half Broke Horses, by Jeanette Walls, am 3/4 of the way through Hungry for the World by Kim Barnes, and have started Hunger by Roxane Gay. The first book was recommended and given to me by a friend. That was about 10 years ago. I’ve owned Kim Barnes’ book for more than 10 years, and she even signed it at a reading in Fairbanks. Roxane’s book is new, so it’s nice to read something that hasn’t been guilt-tripping me from my bookshelf.

Gaby says she’s ready to go back but doesn’t want to lose her pen pals. She wants to keep up the good work making our own white bread, too. She loves the house phone because she loves to hear the kids answer and wonder who it is. She wants to implement a schedule for having our phones turned on/off. I like the idea of the times when we can or cannot be on our phones/screens. I wouldn’t even mind if we went weekdays without screens and just allowed them on the weekends.

As for me, I’ve enjoyed blogging about the experience, but it’s taken me away from responding to some letters. I’m sorry. I will. I promise.

So, friends. I recommend you try it. As with forming any new, healthy habit, it sucks. It’s hard. It’s a lot of work. It feels like a huge sacrifice. But you’ll get used to it. You’ll sink into new rhythms. You’ll cheat a little to find out what’s best for you.

Slowing down so drastically on my social media consumption has been phenomenal; I have less anxiety. I reach for my phone less often. I got into only one, tiny political facebook fight. (when I did, I spent too much time thinking about what to respond) I don’t want that kind of bullshit to take up space in my head anymore. I’m busy enough worrying about feeding Cyrus enough food, about helping Erika plan her high school classes, about cleaning up after the cats, about being a good and present partner to Gaby.

The times I’ve scrolled through facebook I’ve thought, “I can live without knowing all of this.”  The news, well, I get that from the radio without all of the bullshit comments from stupid people. Knowing what you had for dinner and where you had it, I mean, that’s cool, but I don’t love you or hate you any more for it. Maybe I’ve missed out on some events, but I don’t know, so I didn’t really miss them.

And, who knew, the fewer things you say on social media, the smaller and smaller you become. No one comments. No one “likes” your post. No one bothers you.

I bet you were so busy seeing everything else, you didn’t even miss us.

Maybe that’s why we social media at all: so we’re not forgotten.


Photo from molepoet


Going Dark: Days 17-23. Tide Pods and other obviously bad choices

By now you’ve probably lost interest. Or, maybe you figured that we just cut the cord for real. In less exciting, but very real news, we’ve been busy and I’ve been too tired to type.

So much has happened that I can’t even remember. I had a birthday last week. Then the weather was 65 degrees. Then we made a lot of food.

We’re still getting cards and letters from you all. One awful day, I opened the mailbox and found one million of Gaby’s fancy cards returned. I guess the cardstock was too heavy. So, we’re sorry. She broke down and went to the post office and bought what she needed. Those should be on their way now. And this time, they should get there.

There have been a lot of nice moments: the kids doing homework together at the kitchen table, each one shouting questions at me at the same time. We all played Monopoly Millionaire the other day, too. We’re still enjoying Karuba, even Gaby and I play it when we’re alone.

I’ve been cheating a little. On my birthday I read all of your messages (thank you!). What’s weird, is I feel compelled to respond to each post individually, like I’ve been doing with the mail. That’s a new feeling for me. I mean, social media is so full of people saying things to you and at you. Sometimes we acknowledge them with a thumb’s up. Sometimes, we just let them live there, out in the ether. That’s the cool thing about the letters; they’re very personal. And you feel obligated as fuck to return one.

Once you cheat, even just a little, it sets off a cascade of bad habits. Just. Like. That.

If I set my fitbit alarm (I’ve been getting up at 4:30 and not wanting to wake up the whole house) before bed, I might accidentally hit the facebook app. And then have to throw the phone across the room. Once that happens, you need more.

At work, I’ve let myself check my phone too many times, and that just leads me to wanting to check it more and more and more.

Gaby’s phone is on her nightstand, charging. Before her birthday, it would’ve been downstairs in the basket.

If Cyrus sees a phone lying around he tattles, “Hey, no electronics!”

So, we have just a week left of January. I guess we’ve done it…mostly. I miss Netflix. But I don’t miss Cyrus being glued to the t.v. asking me to play a video game with him. I love not feeling the need to check my phone before bed and as soon as I wake up. Hell, I we’re all guilty of just waking up a bit in the middle of the night and reaching over for the phone. We tell ourselves we’re just checking the time, but then, maybe that instagram icon is there. Or a little message. And we go down the rabbit hole.

One great moment (with photo evidence not included in this post) was when Erika gave Cyrus a make-over. Since her foundation doesn’t really match his skin, he looked a little orange. But his lip color was nice. And his eyelashes are beautiful with mascara. She called him Donald Trump Junior. She even made his hair look windblown and thin.

I suppose that’s it for a while. I’m not sure what else there is to say. I promise, if nothing else, that I’ll write a final post when we’re done.

Hold up. I almost forgot to tell you. Remember when I published the first post and I put our address out onto the internet? Remember, Tia Carla, when you were like, “don’t do that!” And I was like, “eh.”


This is a bit weird, so bear with me. There is a person out there whom I’ve known but not really known for some years. She worked with me for a semester. Then she wrote a 90 page manuscript about how we met. Like, it had the kind of things I wrote about friends and celebrities when I was 14. “I love her, but in a friend, and totally Christian and nonsexual way.”  That’s the gist of the manuscript. She pursued a friendship, of sorts, with me. She wanted me to read her writing. I politely did what I could for about a year, then just stopped saying anything. After many messages from her, the last thing I wrote to her was, “I don’t want to be friends. Don’t contact me again.” But she did. Many more times and over the course of a year.

She sent me card. Because she reads this blog. And she found my address.

So, kids. Don’t eat laundry detergent, and definitely don’t put your personal information on the internets. Let that be a lesson to you.






Going Dark: Day 16. Shelter From the Storm

As you’ve heard me say many times now, weekends are the hardest.

This weekend was no exception.

Gaby did a lot of her side hustle. Erika was at her dad’s a lot. That left Cyrus and me a lot of time by ourselves. It’s good to have time when it’s just the two of us. Cyrus got his hair cut on Saturday, of course, and then the hilarious phone call asking for Ben Dover. But.

Sunday Gaby worked from 7-12. Erika was with Gaby. Then there were two.

As usual, Cyrus woke us up early, and repeatedly, asking when he could sleep in our bed. After Gaby left, he climbed in with me. He does this on occasion. I tell him that if he’s going to be in bed with me, he’s going to sleep. “Okay, Mom.”  But then comes the chatter. “Mom, did you have a bully when you were a kid?” “Did you like My Little Ponies when you were a little girl?”  “Did Joe Montana and Jerry Rice retire?”

There was a dusting of snow on the ground, but we got in the car anyway. I drove us to JJ’s Cafe where he had biscuits and gravy, and I ate the chicken friend steak covered in eggs, hash browns, cheese, and gravy. He ate a whole biscuit!  We sat side by side in the booth happily eating and watching big snowflakes fall outside. It was a wonderful time of just the two of us. I nearly cried at the amount of food he ate. I marveled at how he is finally old enough to carry on a conversation. I thought of the times when he was still in a car seat, and a feeding pump had to be taken everywhere. Those times are dead. Really fucking dead.

What I haven’t shared with you is this: Cyrus is eating. Since October 1st, he’s been without a feeding tube in the day time (he got calories through it at night when he was asleep). And since November 27th, when his button broke at school, he’s gone totally without. He’s scheduled to have the button in his stomach removed on March 5. He now has an answer to the question you’ve all asked since his birth. The answer is March 5. Just a few weeks before his 8th birthday.

I’m telling you this because it’s stressful feeding him. He likes to eat, but it takes him a long time. So. A meal can last an hour or more. We have to use a 30 ml syringe to give him a caloric smoothie to supplement what he eats. But. He fucking eats. Tonight he ate a whole pear, and beans, cheese, and sour cream–and he squirted a teaspoon or more of sriracha into it. He ate it all. He said, “I love spicy food.” I’m so fucking proud. It’s exhausting, though. Counting his calories to make sure he gains weight.

Without Gaby, this tube removal would not be possible. When she came into his life 3 + years ago, she worried at his nutrition; he got pediasure through his feeding tube. Four times a day. Plus water. I’d consulted with a nutritionist to see about a more nutritious alternative, but no one really seemed to have one.

Gaby made one. She made a fatty, organic, healthy smoothie that had double the calories and no fucking corn syrup, which is the first ingredient in pediasure.

This was at least a year and a half ago. She fattened him up. But she didn’t stop there. She kept trying to feed him things that he liked, with added oils and fats.

Now, he eats half of his calories like we do, and half with one of many flavored, caloric smoothies. Without Gaby, I’m positive he would still be using pediasure. I can’t believe they feed that shit to people.

But, like I said, the food doesn’t just slide down. He chews forever. Sometimes he chipmunks it in his cheeks. Sometimes he makes some excuse that he has to go to the bathroom or that he’s really tired. It’s a challenge.

And sometimes that coupled with “Hey, mom hey, mom hey, mom hey, mom” and no one else there to absorb the kid energy is enough to make a person feel overwhelmed.

I mean, I struggle with depression and anxiety a bit any way. Loud noises, like talking and shouting, make me spaz out. I do everything in my power to shut it down. Like, Cyrus talkingtalkingtalking or when he clucks like a chicken for ten minutes, or just makes all of those noise while we’re all trying to play Karuba. Sometimes, it’s all too much for me. This weekend was one of those times. And Gaby’s birthday was yesterday.

So, I’d had two days already of a lot of kid time. I have a lot in my life to be anxious about right now, having to do with Cyrus. And, on top of that, birthdays have always been a little weird for me.

Yesterday I woke up to a cat putting his claws in the mattress, then Cyrus asking when he could sleep with me. Then the cat. Then Cyrus walking back in. This went on for an hour and a half and ended around 7:00 am on our day off. On Gaby’s birthday.

So, Cyrus and I made coffee. Gaby had some, turned on her phone, and got exactly one million phone calls from her family all across the world. She retreated to the bedroom, leaving just Cyrus and me again. He demanded we play balloony ball. I tried to clean up the kitchen as a birthday present for Gaby. He “hey mommed” me the whole time.

I’ll get to the bottom of this story now. I was grumpy all day but trying not to be because it was Gaby’s birthday. I know my history of not really liking birthdays, so I thought I was trying extra hard to be happy for her. We all went outside in the super cold and played snow volleyball and snow soccer.

Mom and Dad came and we all went out to dinner. Dinner was amazing. Cyrus even at salad. He ate fucking lettuce with shredded carrots. He called himself a baby brachiosaur. He roared and ate more vegetables while the rest of us shoved bloody steaks into our mouths.

And then a piece of cake came. With a little candle. And Mom and Gaby were singing happy birthday, quietly, and I started feeling that anxiety that I can’t describe to you, you just have to have it to understand.

I blew out the fucking candle.

I snuffed out my love’s birthday.

I’m telling you this intimate detail because I’m ashamed. And maybe you’ve done something just as shameful. Maybe you’ve also wished for just 20 minutes of silence from your beautiful child. Maybe, sometimes, everything can feel like too much and you do something utterly stupid.

Or maybe it’s just me.

So, it felt like a long weekend. There are no screens to hypnotize my child, so I must figure out how to make him have some time to himself. There are no screens for me to sit in front of and live somewhere else.

I have to be right here, with myself, by myself, with all of my feelings.

The woman who snuffed out her partner’s birthday.

Without Gaby, my son would not be eating on his own. Without Gaby, I wouldn’t be eating so well with such small amount of effort. Without Gaby, there would be no Erika, no too-loud laughing, no one to check me when I’m wrong. No one to fight by my side, guns a’blazin’ when I’m right.

Tú eres mi refugio y mi verdad.


This is me after a half mile walk from my office to my car, after a long, screenless weekend.  I didn’t realize until today the lines I’ve earned under my eyes.




Going Dark: Days 8 & 9

Oh. Hi there.

I didn’t write last night because I didn’t have too much time. I’ve decided to work out. And I’ve decided to do it at 5:00 am. So, as you can imagine, I wanted to sleep a bit.

One of the great things about no cell phones at home is our home phone and Cyrus’s love of answering it. Any time it rings, which it seems to quite frequently, he screams, “I GOT IT!” Just like my childhood. He runs to answer it. “Hellllooooo,” he says in the way a 75 year old man would who is in the middle of smoking a cigar and hard of hearing.

The other cool thing, which Gaby just reminded me of, is how wonderful it is that the kids treat the home phone like it’s theirs. There is no caller i.d., so a phone call is exciting. We don’t know who it is. Mom and Dad have been calling Cyrus there a lot, and Erika’s dad only calls our house number now. Erika pretends she hates all of this, but I know she’s really enjoying having a phone. (Did I mention she doesn’t have her own, anyway? Which is unheard of for a 13 year old these days). Gaby also taught her how to *69. Mary, Gaby’s friend, called one night and told her how to pick up the other phone and listen in on phone calls. Erika’s mind was blown that this was even possible. Unfortunately for her, Gaby and I both have a lot of experience in this area and so we’re very good at detecting when the other line picks up.

So last night the phone rang, and Cyrus answered. Then I heard him say, “Who are you?” And then he said, “Chris?” And then I saw his face scrunch, like he couldn’t even be bothered with such a ridiculous phone call, especially since it wasn’t for him. He was ready to hang up, but I grabbed it from him. Phone etiquette is something we’re going to work on.

I was happy to hear the voices of some of my rugby teammates. They were all at McNally’s celebrating another teammate’s surgery. I asked them to talk to me like they were posting in the group facebook page. Instead, we had more of a real conversation. They said they missed me and wondered if our experiment meant I couldn’t come out to the bar. I don’t think it means that, but it’s funny that I do feel a bit isolated. I don’t get news the way I used to. I mean, I still listen to NPR when I’m driving to and from work, but I miss out on the other stories that I used to see on Facebook and then try to investigate.

There’s no constant stream of information and updates. My phone no longer makes 6 different noises that I can’t decipher. I no longer sit half-listening to what my family is saying while I’m wondering who texted, tweeted, instagramed, messaged, whatever. I don’t have constant hatred, either, wondering what the fucking cheeto-faced leader is doing. So, that’s really nice.

I got another card in the mail last night from a very good friend’s aunt and her partner: people I’ve met once. And just now I see that someone I don’t know commented on my blog that she was really enjoying reading.

As I told you, this weekend was very challenging. Weekdays are just fine. Only occasionally do Gaby and I stare longingly at the tv in our bed room.

I think after our month-long challenge, we’ll not only have better habits, but maybe make it a rule that no screens are allowed during the week. Or maybe not before dinner. Or some other big restrictions. We haven’t really decided yet. I mean, we’re only 9 days in.

The next big challenge will happen this weekend. We have a three day weekend and Gaby will be working quite a bit of it. That means me, “hey, mom,” and “this is the stupidest idea ever” will be hanging out a lot.

The weather is supposed to be more than 5 degrees, so I might resort to the phrase I heard from adults when I was growing up “go play outside.”


Going Dark: Day 7. “Hey, Mom”

It started some time when it was still dark. The pitter patter of little feet and then the noise of something being knocked over. A light touch on my shoulder, “hey, mom, can I sleep with you?” I’m guessing this happened about 7 times this morning before I relented and opened up the covers. We lay there just a minute. “Hey, mom, do you like Yadier Molina?” So. He and I got up to make coffee. It was 7:50.

The day is a blur of laundry and “hey, mom. Do you want to play baseball?”  And then maybe I put on a record and “hey, mom. Do you like the Kansas City chiefs?”  Then I cooked some food and was “hey-mommed” roughly 35 times. I can’t how many times it happened today. It seems that Cyrus is having trouble, still, finding things to do by himself. I love him. But I can’t engage with him all the time. At one point, he was so solidly on my lap, that he was in my face. And then came a cat. And then another cuddled up next to me. I jumped up and tried to get away, for just a few minutes. I was followed. Gaby tried to help. I did get 25 minutes to myself. I lay on the bed and stared out at the freezing rain.

That was my whole day. I cooked a little. Gaby cooked a lot. She crafted more cards and letters. She did some work, too. I wanted to turn on the tv. SO MUCH.

I should mention that Erika was at her dad’s all weekend enjoying television and video games. She, suddenly, is requesting to be there more…

This morning, Gaby said something really wonderful to me about the desire to communicate instantly. I made her write it down. Here is Gaby:

Share this thought? No, not that thought. How about this one? No, too personal. I need to sound clever. I need to say something meaningful. I need to post the best picture. I need to share an article that speaks on my behalf, instead. Like, this. No, Love it. Sad. Happy. Sad. Happy.

The best part about Going Dark? That constant noise in my head has gone silent. It feels so good.

I’ve also noticed how addicted I’ve become to instant responses: whether its posting something on social media and checking to see comments, or it’s looking for the “read” update on instant messenger which immediately tells me someone’s looked at the message I’ve sent. Did they read it? What are their thoughts? Respond. Respond to me, now. The same goes for text messaging and my Whatsapp. It’s exhausting.

I’ve been writing letters by hand. It takes away the burning need for sharing current situations or instant thoughts in order to fix a need to be validated, to be seen, or be heard. I wonder how many people agree with me. I wonder who’d dare to disagree. By taking away the option to share my thoughts instantaneously, I’ve made myself fully responsible for my own thoughts. Meaning, I have to have a conversation with just myself about how I feel about things. I can no longer opt to dump thoughts on social media friends, hoping they’ll sort it out for me.

How do I know that I’m addicted to instant-responses? shortly after I write a letter, I find myself stressing over how long it will take for recipients to get the cards, with the notes. When will this letter get to them. Ugh. It will be forever from now since they’re still sitting on that table. It’s Sunday, I have to wait until Monday for the slow-process to even start. I could just send a quick text.

Writing a card is a shift in the thought processing. I start writing a simple idea, like, how wonderful the house smells (or, how hard it is to use a glue gun.) Before long, the card is totally filled with tiny, hand-written words. Most of the time, I write about how fun, and also how much it hurts, to be writing by hand. If I make a mistake, for instance, I write about what I should have said instead, and the fact that I made that mistake. Since I do not get to delete it and start over. You may think that I could simply grab another piece of paper and then, start over. I can’t because I’ve also been making my own cards, which takes quite a bit of time, and has become my new favorite past-time. I have not done this many crafts since I was a child. It is so wonderful. Once I start writing on the handmade cards, there is no turning back. What’s on it, is on it. There’s no grammar check. No ctrl-a-delete. And so, it requires me to be more attentive, more careful with the writing itself. Rather than thinking about what reaction I will get from the written ideas, I think about whether the cursive r looks like a v or why it seems harder for me to write cursive in English than in Spanish.

I’d need like 10 cards to fit all of the text I’ve typed so far.

I’ve been spending a lot time building our homemade pantry.

My attempt to make Cheez-its for Cyrus, was successfully delicious. Although, he proclaimed we simply cannot call them Cheez-its because that is not what they are at all. He’s right. My version is crispier, and less orange. They are more like a saltine.

I’ve been making old fashioned white bread loaves. Starting with a fermentation process called a sponge, or dough starter (this is what makes the house smell amazing,) the 12 hour process is worth every second. The final product is a bread that is unlike any commercial brand. Flaky, soft, and a flavor that’s deep and rich. If you’re in the Columbia area and want a loaf, let me know (call or postal mail.) I will gladly share a loaf with you. If you’re outside of Columbia, and willing to pay for overnight shipping, I will send it to you. The shelf life on this bread is 3 days tops. Thus, it should be eaten right away.

Yesterday I used some of the same fermented dough to make hamburger buns. Today we made cheeseburgers for lunch. The patties, a blend of 100% grass fed, locally sourced beef, and  ground pork of the same quality, seasoned with alino preparado, and salt. Seared on a cast iron skillet with butter. Then, we melted aged white cheddar cheese on top. I ate mine with onion, mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup. Christina added avocado on hers.

That’s all I have for now.


Hi. It’s me again.  I agree with all that Gaby says about instant gratification regarding posts. I’m dying to engage with all of you on facebook to see how you’re responding to my blog. Maybe I’ll check tomorrow at work. Just really quick.

Just now. Gaby has burned herself for the 3rd time with the glue gun.

I feel bad saying this, but I’m looking forward to going to work tomorrow. The weekday nights are much easier than full weekends with no screens. At work, I know I can put in my head phones and have no one call me mom for the whole day.



Going Dark: Day 6. Raw Power

As I kinda predicted, today was maybe the hardest day without screens. A quick summary goes like this: woke up at 5:45 because Cyrus was asking to sleep in my bed. He kept coming in the bed room until 7:22. Got up to make coffee. Gaby got up. He and I started playing Monopoly Millionaire.  He chirped and quacked and made all sorts of annoying noises while we played. It was maddening. I drank coffee. Somehow, all of this, plus laundry and vacuuming lasted until 1:00.

That’s when the mail came. And we had two letters! We read them aloud and felt super touched that anyone would write to us. (Thanks Kim and Carla!) When we were done, it was 1:30. Gaby and I planned on taking Cyrus to see Star Wars, but he kept complaining that it was inappropriate for him. At one point, I heard him talking to himself or his sleep buddies in his room, “fine I’ll see it if you want me to have nightmares there are bad guys and people getting their heads cut off and i’m not supposed to watch it but okay fine if you want to make me have nightmares.”  He then came into our room while I was folding clothes, “Mom, it’s up to you if you want me to have nightmares.” Like. Totally guilt tripping me.

Anyway. You might be wondering how we came to know the movie time. WELL LET ME TELL YOU. I had to use the yellow pages, which, thanks to Natalie and Alison visiting the other night, Erika learned a little bit and I got a refresher. I looked under “movies,” and found the theatre. I called the number, a person answered, so I got nervous and hung up. I was expecting a recording of the movies and showtimes, but no, a person said hello. Hell no.

Then I told Gaby about the problem. You see, I have some phone anxiety. I admit it’s worse in the era of the internets. I just wanted to google the damn thing. But. This time, Gaby said she’d talk to the lady. I called. She asked about Star Wars. The woman gave us a phone number. We called. It was some medical appliance store and totally not the movie theatre show times. Gaby called the real person back. The real person told her the show times.

Anyway. We read the letter aloud and headed off to get some groceries before seeing Star Wars. The whole time Cyrus kept asking about the damn movie and when we were going home and reminding us how scary it was. So. We didn’t see the movie because we didn’t want to listen to him berating us the entire time or saying, like, “this is inappropriate for me” while we were trying to enjoy the film.

This is when things got hard. We came home. Between groceries and home, Cyrus had fallen asleep. Gaby and I admitted that tall we wanted to do was nap/ turn on the tv and relax. We knew if we cheated Cyrus would totally tell on us, though. We contemplated. We didn’t do it

The afternoon was filled with the two of us trying to nap while Cyrus ran around playing ballooony ball. Gaby made more bread. The house just smells like bread all the time now. It’s amazing.

After the bullshit nap, we went to the dining room table. I wrote a reply letter. Gaby made fancy envelopes. Like, tons of them, so be ready, people. Cyrus worked in his activity book, but mostly bothered me.

There was a glue stick crisis, so he and I went to Wal-Mart.

But then.

We got home around 7:00. Gaby was working on her envelopes and writing letters. Cyrus was making all of the weird noises he likes. I put on a record: Iggy and the Stooges’ Raw Power. I’ve owned it a long time, but I don’t listen very often. As soon as “Search and Destroy” came on, Cyrus was playing air guitar. He ran over to look at the album cover. It’s this:


“Wow,” he said, “Iggy Pop is really good. I want to learn this song when I get an electric guitar” For the next hour we listened, played air guitar, discussed garage rock, and played balloon baseball in the living room. “Is he friends with David Bowie?”

On occasion, Cyrus would go over to the turn table and look at the album cover. “Is he a boy or a girl?” I’d say he was a boy wearing a make up. “He’s really good, Mom.”

And that leads us up to bed time.

Without no screens, I wouldn’t’ve played this album for my son. Without no screens, we wouldn’t’ve both danced around while slapping a yellow balloon back and forth while Gaby crafted at the table and made bread.

This is where I end the writing. This is where I say something clever about today’s struggles and the wonderful time before bed and Raw Power. Raw Power is Gaby’s ability to make the dough rise and the bread to turn out. Raw Power is me slapping a balloon with all my strength to have it travel 5 feet while sipping whisky and pepsi. Raw Power is us operating this family with a corded landline phone and record player.

Raw Power lit something in Cyrus to make his eyes sparkle.

Going Dark: Day 3

Today Gaby went back to work, so that left my mom at the house for a while with Cyrus, Erika and her two friends, and no screens. I don’t really know what the teenagers were up to most of the day, but I can tell you that right now Erika is on the couch, curled up with a book of one million pages: It.  I’m positive it’s not age-appropriate, but it’s nice to see her reading, especially a book that weighs as much as a turkey.

There’s not much more to say about today. It hasn’t really been a challenge. I barely checked my phone at work, though Mom called once or twice and so did Gaby.

As Gaby baked homemade cheez-its this evening, we discussed how we feel about no screens so far. I don’t really care. We both agree to feeling much less anxious. There’s no desire to grab a phone and see what’s happening. No wandering eyes across the dinner table. No staring at someone a little longer waiting for them to hit send until they’re ready to talk. We do miss Netflix, Gaby especially since her favorite thing to do at night is shower, lie down, and turn on one of those damn sci-fi shows. I don’t miss that as much. Or, I don’t miss the question of “what do you want to watch?” which is usually 15 minutes of trying to decide and then ultimately just giving up on anything and going to sleep.

Mom asked me last night if Cyrus would be allowed to play video games today. I said no. She sounded worried. This evening as we ate, I asked her how the day was, if she found anything challenging. She said it was a great day; he worked in his activity book, he played balloony ball, they read so much Captain Underpants, he played with his new PJ Mask headquarters.

Then this wonderful moment happened at dinner: Mom reminded Cyrus that he wanted to call a family meeting. I told him the time was right since we were all gathered.

“Gather ’round, everyone,” he said. “We’re going to talk about politics. Now, as everyone knows, Donald Trump is the president. Who is his arch nemesis? Is it Hillary Clinton?”  We all agreed it was. I asked what else he wanted to say about politics. “I’m going to be president,” he said. Erika asked if he wanted to be a democrat or republican. “I want to be the guy with the glasses,” he said. “Are you talking about Bernie Sanders?” Erika asked. “Yes,” he said. And thus concluded the meeting.

A few moments after he and I came upstairs tonight to get ready for bed, I went to my room for a minute. I turned around to find Cyrus’s door shut and Led Zeppelin playing. It was time to read and go to bed, but I didn’t want to interrupt whatever independent moment he might be having. I waited a few minutes. Eventually, I found his door open. He was reading Captain Underpants as Robert Plant sang, just as last night, “I said baby, you know I’m gonna leave you.”

Today’s difficulty rating: very easy

p.s. I grabbed for my phone not long ago (it wasn’t there) to text Mom thank you for helping out today and pulling such a long shift. So, thank you. We love you.

Going Dark: Day 2

Today I went back to work. Gaby was home with the kids, so she was worried things would be super difficult.

At work, I had to use my computer, of course, and email. But I refrained from checking my phone as much as usual. That might not sound like an accomplishment, but, if you really think about how many times a day you pick up your phone for funsies, it’s a lot. However, since Gaby was home with the kids and wasn’t allowed to text (or use any screens) she did use the landline to call me…about six times. That sounds like too many, but when I compare it to the texts we generally send each other throughout the day, it’s nothing. It does feel like a lot when the phone rings so many times, though. There were many, many times I felt like picking up the phone to send her a quick text about random stuff I was thinking about, but I couldn’t. It occurred to me that I had to write it down for later, or just try to remember everything. I chose just trying to remember.

Gaby was busy today. She went grocery shopping. She made two loaves of white bread. She made a dinner inspired by Alice Waters, consisting of a lemon roasted chicken with garlic and parsley, jasmine rice, and carrot salad (the carrots shredded by hand). She prepared the material for the homemade cheez-its she wants to make for Cyrus tomorrow. In addition, she cut potatoes for french fries later this week. Today, she says, she learned what a 1950’s housewife might’ve felt like. She worked her ass off all day and couldn’t imagine a partner coming home, eating the dinner she spent all day making, maybe saying thanks you, and then going to bed.

One of the phone calls she made to me today was to tell me that Erika was reading on the couch, of her own free will, and that Cyrus was going outside to play…by himself. Gaby took this picture for you: She was making bread in the kitchen. It was warm and smelled of yeast, whereas outside it was 15 degrees with some leftover snow on the ground.  From the kitchen window she saw him outside chasing the neighbor’s chickens, picking up random things in the yard, and running back inside to “check on” her. He did this for 30 minutes. For one of the first times ever, he had an urge to go outside.

The kids just spent an entire day without netflix or video games. (Erika and her friends did go to see a movie, but nothing here at the house.) Apparently, Cyrus was also working in his activity book and drawing, too. Erika’s friends are still here. Three teenage girls are doing facials in the basement. I’m not sure if the guests have their phone on them (I’m sure they do), but when I went down there to grab something, I saw them all playing with Erika’s new Polaroid camera. So. It’s possible to do things without internet.

I forgot to tell you how awful my morning was. I woke up to a dead car battery. Like, super dead. Like, I used dad’s charger overnight and it was at 14% this morning. So, Gaby had to take me to work. But not until I found my wallet. So, that took about 45 minutes of cussing and looking around the house. Eventually, I found the wallet. The battery is still dead, though.

Gaby picked me up at work with Cyrus, and we went to buy a battery. I came home feeling pretty butch about changing it, but my stupid car has some stupid battery bracket that I can’t reach without a long ratchet-y wrench. Don’t worry, I’ll have the tool to do it tomorrow. I’m telling you all of this because usually on days like this, I’d come home and have several glasses of whiskey and play on my phone while Gaby watches some sci-fi show I don’t like until we just fell asleep. But. I had just one beer, instead.

I think we sent out a few letters today. And I should mention that Gaby has been making a lot of phone calls. Like. Right now she’s on the phone. Right beside me. So, it’s hard for me to concentrate on what I’m writing. I’d wait and revise later, but it’s nearly our bedtime.

I’ve just told Gaby that I’ve noticed her phone calls. She’s made many. She is a communicator at heart. For example, she’s been on the phone for about an hour and a half with an old friend she hasn’t talked to in a long time. I’ve seen her posted up on the kitchen with the phone cord stretched.

Oh, one more thing, while Gaby was on the phone, Erika and her friends where in the kitchen trying to pick up and listen in. Ha. Just like old fashioned times. In the 80s.

And here is a picture I took today: I was putting clothes away and Gaby was on the phone. Cyrus has a record/cd player in his room and he called to me, “mom, can I listen to led zepplin?”  I helped him get it going. Then, a few minutes later, when he might’ve gotten bored of it and followed me back into our room, I looked across the hallway and saw him staring at the record player, his arms folded and head resting, fixated by “babe, I’m gonna leave you.”


Day 1: First Day of Darkness

Erika said I could share her protest card with you all. It is written in three different colors of markers on a high quality cardstock card:

“Dear Someone

I am so very sorry you are receiving this letter. My mother has made it a RULE that we are not allowed to use Anything, no devices not even internet! You must be thinking ‘good for you guys!’ Well you do it then. I must write letters to talk or I must use a weird cord phone. I am here to PROTEST! Save the internet, save the world!


A Young Teen Who Cares!”


So, that’s most of that.

Here is my log for the day:

8:03 AM

So it’s been only a few hours. Gaby, Cyrus, and I are at the kitchen table. Cyrus is eating breakfast. Gaby is looking at cookbooks trying to find cool recipes for snacks to make while we go super unprocessed with our food.

I have nothing to do with my hands right now. I switched over the laundry. I made coffee. I sat in silence for a few minutes on the couch.

Cyrus is keeping me busy right now. I’m feeding him the high-calorie smoothie through a meat injector syringe. He’s also being fed a Hawaiian roll with cheese, butter, and mayo. He won’t eat it by himself. I load the syringe and squirt it into his mouth each time. I pick up the sandwich and wait for him to accept a bite, like a little bird. They syringe drips everywhere. We do this every morning.

6:00 PM

We went to mom and Dad’s for our christmas celebration. Mom, of course, had a whole spread of food. My inclination was to take a picture with my phone to put on instagram. But. On the table: turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, black eye peas, cottage cheese, rolls, carrots, cheese, deer sausage, crackers, salad, maybe that was all. Now just picture it.

I guess we’ve already cheated today. Dad had the tv on. I tried not to pay attention. I had to use my phone once to look up our home phone number. I haven’t memorized it yet. Gaby struggled this morning while getting dressed; she reached over for her phone, for no reason, to see what was happening. Thankfully, it was turned off.

Erika has spent the day bargaining and trying to make sound arguments against this  whole stupid idea.

*She comes into the kitchen to wonder how her friend’s mom will know that Gaby called. It’s really causing her a lot of anxiety*

For me, I have a slight urge to turn on the tv and rewatch Bojack Horseman, while folding laundry or doing anything, really.

But right now we’re all around the dining room table. Gaby is menu planning and making a grocery list. Erika seems to be writing a card to someone, but she says she’s protesting. Cyrus is very busy with a PJ Masks activity book he got for Christmas. Me, I’m journaling. On paper. With a pen. This is another moment I might document with a picture for social media. But. Again. It’s a nice picture. Everyone is busy with a book or paper. It feels good.

I wonder, though, once I’m done journaling, how I can busy myself. We forgot to buy an alarm clock, so I’m going to ask Mom for a wake-up call. It’s only 6:15. I  to go to bed at 9:30. What to do.


You’ll be happy to know that after finishing up my journal entry, I folded some more laundry. We listened to the radio. Then Erika, Cyrus, and I played guitar, cuatro, and maracas for about 35 minutes. I sang off key, but it didn’t keep it from being a pretty good time. Gaby wrote several letters to people while we did this. And she tells me, right now, she started crafting her own cards, too.

Also. Erika drew several protest signs which read “Save the Internet, Save the World!”  and “Save the WIFI!”  And ” #itsnot1950

Day 1 difficulty level: Mild/Easy.

Tomorrow I go back to work and Gaby is at home with the kids since there’s no school. I hope she journals for you then.



Going Dark

The idea started when I had a hankerin’ to google that show, “1900 House.”  It aired on PBS some time around the turn of the century. I mean, the 21st century. It’s a reality show where a family in London is selected and put into a period house where they must live for 3 months without modern technology; the house is completely set-up with antiques, including the wall paper and gas lights; they send and receive mail 3 times a day; the women wear corsets, even to do house work; they have a budget and must buy only locally produced food from the butcher (who makes house calls), and they have to use a cook stove to make their food. I think I saw the show originally when I was living in a basement apartment in Houston, making grilled cheese in a toaster and eating angel hair pasta with butter. What I liked about the show is the challenge. And. How much it reminds me of the stories I hear from both sides of my family. Mom grew up without running water on a farm far away from town. Dad didn’t have running water until, well, I can’t remember, maybe they got it when he was in his early teens. They both grew up with an outhouse. They both grew up killing their own animals and helping out around the farm or house.

I suppose I’ve lived back in time already, in ways some people my age have not. I have helped hunt and process the carcasses of animals my family would come to eat. I grew up with just one television station (until Dad bought a satellite dish). I used a rotary phone and had to make sure our neighbors weren’t on the party line before I dialed out. And, in a move which horrified my parents, I lived in small cabin in Fairbanks with no running water and an outhouse for several years.

I don’t have some romanticized idea about “country living” or “living off the land.”  I know it’s hard. I know it sucks. I’ve seen the look in my mom’s eyes when she is asked about her childhood. I moved to Fairbanks to get away from what I knew, that’s true, but it wasn’t with the same stars in my eyes that some others had there. One woman, someone with money from a large city, thought this was how she was going to commune with nature or have some more authentic human experience than what she’d had growing up.  When I lived in Houston and worked at an upscale camping store, my coworkers were shocked I didn’t hike or camp much, seeing as how I was from the country. All I could say was, you know, when you’re from the middle of nowhere, you don’t really feel a need to get more into the middle of nowhere. I walked through the woods all the time.  It wasn’t until I lived in such a huge city for a few years that I understood the urge to run screaming from the concrete and into the woods where no one could see me.

Did I mention there are other shows? Like, Frontier House, Colonial House, Plymouth House, Texas Ranch House, and there’s a newer one on PBS, called, like, Victorian Slum House. I have no idea who would sign up to be a part of that experiment.

I’m telling you all of this because, while I was watching, I was wondering if I could live without modern advances. I mean. Of course I could. I have. I’m capable of doing a lot. But the more important question is, can I live without some of them in a world where everyone uses them? Gaby and I discussed all of this (she was stoked about the idea), shared a google doc, and made a plan. Will eliminating the internet from our house help with Cyrus’s video game addiction or Erika’s need to have Netflix playing at all times? Will I read more or play the guitar? What will Gaby do without the video calls with her family? Will our family become closer or just ignore each other while reading books? We’re going to test it. I should mention, though, that Gaby and I are the only ones excited about it. Erika, who is 13, is certainly opposed.

In preparation for our 30 days of darkness, I’ve purchased an 8 dollar phone and added a landline. I wanted to get a rotary phone, but Mom didn’t have one lying around, and they cost about 60 dollars now. So far, Erika has screamed from upstairs, “How do you even dial a number?” and “How do you hang up?” HAHAHAHAHAHA. (Still taking donations for a rotary phone if you have one). How am I supposed to text my friends about sleepovers!? she shouts. Pick up the phone, we say, and make a call.

I bought jacks, marbles, pick up sticks, and a new family board game called Karuba.

The rules are this:

-no cell phones used in the house (Gaby needs hers for clients. I need mine for Chef Gaby)

-no internet (except when I get to blog to you about our experiences and Erika for homework which will be monitored at the kitchen table.)

-no tv. (I’m changing the netflix password, too. eeeeevvvvviiillll)

-no video games (basically, no screens)

-We can listen to the radio, but no streaming music. We have a record player and cd player.

-We will write letters. (This is how I corresponded with my first girlfriend; there was no internet. This is how Gaby grew up in the Andes. There was only one phone in her neighborhood that everyone had to share)

-We will talk on the phone.

-Our diet will focus on eating locally raised meats and veggies as much as possible and whole grains. Any breads, pastas, or snacks will be made from scratch. (like cheez-its, fig bars, cereal)

-Make an effort to minimize the stuff we have. We already kind of hate stuff, but we’ll keep donating.


All of this begins tomorrow. It’s no 1900 House, but maybe more like…1949 house.

What am I hoping to experience, you might ask. I want Cyrus to learn to play independently; he has wonderful toys and books that he won’t touch unless someone is engaged with him. For myself, I need to learn how to be quiet and still. I don’t do that very well. Maybe I’ll listen to music I forgot I had. Maybe I’ll read a book because all of the children will be reading, too.

Maybe we’ll all lose our minds. Maybe we’ll all find ourselves.