Going Dark: Day 10. One Third

A1xQKspxS0L._SL1500_It’s January 10th, so day 10 of our challenge.

We’ve gone 10 days without tv, tablets, video games, and cell phones at home. We’re 1/3 of the way through.  That might not seem like too much, but hey, it’s almost half. I guess.

Tonight Erika, Gaby, and I finally whipped out our new board game: Karuba.  Gaby was very wary at first, as she really doesn’t like board games and always says no. Erika groaned, even though she really does like them (and begs for us to play with her)…usually. I guess when an adult suggests it, it’s not as fun.

Erika called her dad. And this was a lovely moment. She grabbed two barstools and lay back, hanging her head off one end, her curly hair nearly touching the kitchen floor. She giggled. She complained. She twirled the phone cord around her finger. Gaby and I were like c’mon, let’s play already. And she totally said to her Dad, “sorry, my mom is begging me to play this game, so I have to go.”

Classic, vintage, teenage girl on the phone. She might as well have had a facemask on and nail polish at the ready.

Anyway, we started the game, and it didn’t take long before everyone was into it. But minutes later, we got a phone call from Alison and Natalie (old rugby friends of mine who visited the other night and told Erika what the yellow pages are and how to use them). They called to talk to Erika and only Erika. hahaha. We also got a post card in the mail from them today, from Hawaii! And we got another postcard from Audra! And she didn’t realize how small postcards were and apparently wrote another card immediately following.  So, that’s two pieces of mail from her.

Anyway. We played the game. Three times. And there were only three of us here tonight. And we’re 1/3 of the way through the challenge. There’s meaning here somewhere. I don’t know what it means.

*just now Gaby says, “I kinda wanna play that game again.”*

I’ve just asked Gaby what she has to say after 1/3 of our journey. She admits that she still wants the t.v. right before bed. She wants her show. Just a little bit. Just a little. She can quit any time.

I miss being able to see your posts immediately on facebook. When I post this, it publishes automatically to facebook and twitter. I have to wait until the next morning, when I’m waiting for my work computer to turn on, to see what people might’ve said.

Erika misses watching t.v., too. What she means by that is lying in her bed and watching Netflix on her laptop. Just now we asked if she liked playing the board game. She says she does, but says we can do that any time. When I suggested Gaby might be playing on her phone during the game without our challenge Erika said, “now the cards are her phone.”

Sometimes the thirteen year old yells about not having internet. Sometimes the thirteen year old is wise beyond her years.

See, there’s that number 3 again. I knew it meant something.


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: Days 4 & 5

I didn’t write yesterday because there wasn’t much to say. We were busy with work and home stuff. Then we went to bed.

Tonight was about the same. Erika had volleyball practice, so Gaby took her and Cyrus while I went to the gym for an hour. Then we came home, made dinner while listening to Ziggy Stardust (Cyrus’s request: Mom, are you sad David Bowie died?). And then it was already 8:30. Cyrus and I read some Captain Underpants while Gaby finished up some loaves of bread.

He’s in bed. We’re in bed. The cats are settling down. It’s pretty much our bed time.

This is the time we might want to cheat. The tv is looking at us. We could turn on some netflix and no one would know; Cyrus is asleep. Erika is at her dad’s this weekend. It would be so easy. Except all of the discussion of what to watch. And, as you know, by the time it’s decided, it’s time for bed.

I’m not sure what the weekend holds, as it will be our first without the screens.

So fat this doesn’t seem like much of a challenge. But. It’s only day 5.

I’m curious if any of you have considered your own screen habits.

Today’s difficulty: very easy until maybe right now.

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.”