Where They Are, Part 4

North went to school yesterday for the first time in a little over three months. (Well, the first time they went there to attend classes, I mean. We’ve been a couple times to watch Ranvita and other friends perform in the fall play and winter one acts.)

But to back up a little…

Thursday and Friday:

North’s last day in the partial hospitalization program was Thursday. They’ve transitioned to IOP, which stands for intensive outpatient program, at the same facility. It offers the same kinds of therapy that the PHP does, but three hours a day instead of six and a half. It meets in the late afternoon and early evening, so that cleared the way for North’s return to in-person school.

Their first day at IOP was Friday. They knew the other kids because some of them had been in PHP together, and on some days, there’s overlap between the two program schedules, so they’ve all been in group together. North is starting out attending five days a week, but they may cut back to fewer days later so they can be on costumes crew for the spring musical.

We decided a gradual return to in-person school was best, so for now North is continuing with online classes through IIS for astronomy, English, and world history in the mornings. Then they will attend statistics, computer science, and painting in person in the afternoons, and go to IOP straight from school.

The computer science class is the second half of the one they started to take in the fall, but apparently you can take the two halves out of order, and it fulfills a half of the tech requirement, so when their counselor suggested it, they decided to take it. The painting class is also the one they were taking first quarter. North completed some second quarter work independently and I think the teacher is going to waive some or all of the rest and let North start fresh with third quarter assignments. Over the past couple months, they completed this pen-and-ink drawing based on a photograph of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia for this class. I really like it.

Beth, North, and I went to Berkeley Springs for a weekend get-away around Valentine’s Day 2020, and as a result I have kind of a romanticized memory of that weekend, as the last hurray before everything changed so dramatically for us as a nation and as a family. I asked North if they have similar feelings about that weekend and if that’s why they chose Berkeley Springs for their cityscape. They paused, considering, and said that might be the case.

(North finished the cityscape two weekends ago when Beth was road tripping up to Ithaca with a bunch of Noah’s stuff that he couldn’t take with him on the bus. Left to our own devices, I read and cleaned, North crocheted and worked on the cityscape, and we came together to go to the farmers’ market, Starbucks, and watch a scary movie while cuddling on the couch.)

Thursday afternoon, after North’s last day of PHP, we had an appointment with Dr. C, their current psychiatrist, who’s filling in during their long-time psychiatrist’s maternity leave. North’s known Dr. C as long as they’ve known their regular psychiatrist because he led the trans kids’ support group they attended in seventh and eighth grade, and he has a good rapport with them. We talked about North’s transition back to school and other issues, including some medication changes and we all left feeling a little better than when we got there.


I went swimming on Saturday afternoon at the pool where I used to swim weekly before it shut down first for the pandemic, then for extensive repairs. It re-opened in late November, but between being out of the habit, being salty about the fact that they were not honoring pre-pandemic punch cards, and the pool’s erratic schedule (it’s always been prone to unannounced closures and still is), I didn’t manage to show up at a time it was open until this weekend.

As frustrating as the pool’s management is, I like that it’s convenient, being a less than a half-hour walk from my house and it’s on a few bus lines if I don’t feel like walking. It was nice to be back in the water and it wasn’t too crowded. Perhaps I will get back into my old routine of weekend swimming. It might help that the day after I swam, I finally heard back from the pool manager I’ve been emailing since November, and she said they would honor my old card after all. Now it still has to happen and I’m not counting on it, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Ranvita came over late Saturday afternoon and stayed for dinner. North tried to teach her to crochet, an effort that was hindered by the fact that North is right-handed while Ranvita is left-handed. After dinner they watched a movie together.

Sunday was a quiet day. Beth went ice skating, and we were considering going out for ice cream in the evening to mark the last night before North’s return to school, but they went to bed with a migraine a little after four and didn’t get up until almost nine-thirty, by which point Beth, who was worn out, had already gone to bed and I was in the living room reading, about to turn in myself.


Monday would have been a big day even if North going back to school was all that happened, but in addition to that, we had 1) an appointment with two geneticists, 2) another with North’s school counselor, and 3) a family therapy session.

The first meeting was a screening for Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. North’s half-sibling from the donor’s side, Avery, has been diagnosed with it and EDS is associated with a lot of symptoms North experiences, such as chronic pain, especially in the joints, dislocations, and migraine. They were hoping for a diagnosis because it would tie a lot of things together under one overarching explanation, but the results of the interview and exam were inconclusive. After the appointment, North was disappointed. We are going to follow up with a cardiologist, however, because some forms of EDS are associated with heart problems. The doctors didn’t think it was likely North has this subtype of EDS, but they want to check for it, just to be cautious.

Soon after that was finished, we went to North’s school to meet with their counselor to iron out some details regarding their return to school. We got their second quarter grades and learned one of them (history) had not been turned in, probably because of miscommunication between the IIS history teacher and the teacher North will have for history this semester. None of us realized the counselor was going to want North to pick senior year classes in this meeting and that felt a bit rushed and maybe less considered that I would have liked, even though the counselor stressed we can make changes later. Anyway, after fulfilling graduation requirements, North had room in their schedule for art and chorus and a mythology class they’ve wanted to take for a while. I think it could be a fun year.

We left North at school, where they had lunch with Ranvita in the theater room and attended their three classes. When we picked them up to go to IOP, they didn’t have too much to say, but I did learn they are starting a winter landscape with acrylics in painting class.

Beth went to her coworking space, and I took a walk in the grounds of Merriweather Post Pavilion, a concert space. It was a mild afternoon—I wore a sweatshirt with no jacket—and the late afternoon light was pretty in the bare woods. By the time I returned to Beth’s office, with just a half hour until family therapy it seemed too late to start any new work project, so I blogged instead. Then we went to North’s facility where we met with a therapist for our weekly family therapy session, which we spent mainly processing the prior events of the day.

It was 7:20 by the time we got home, so I threw together a quick dinner of ravioli with vegetarian meatballs (a rare splurge on pasta for me) and then we played a couple rounds of Scattergories before bed.


Because I was going to be in Columbia again during dinner-making time to attend the multi-family group, I got up a little earlier than usual and made a cabbage soup for dinner before the workers (more on this below) arrived for the day and took over the kitchen. But as it turned out, they were finished in that room by 9:30, so my early morning cooking session wasn’t necessary after all.

By nine a.m., North was on the couch attending an online astronomy lecture while crocheting. English started an hour later. Their online classes all meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When they were in PHP, they had to watch the videos after the fact, but now they can attend the ones that don’t conflict with their in-person classes as they happen. I hope this helps them participate and engage more with those classes, though as I mentioned, one of them is astronomy, which was their best class last quarter already.

North went to school again and when we picked them up, they mentioned their art teacher said their cityscape turned out well and asked if she could display it. We drove to Columbia again. I thought about walking at Merriweather Post Pavilion again, but I’d already walked in the morning, and it was cold and drizzly, so I took a short walk to get a warm cup of coffee and I brought it back to Beth’s office where I worked a little. She rented the office for January and now that she’s only there for a few hours a day it didn’t seem worth it to renew for February, so it was her last day there. She’s going to try working in the public library starting tomorrow.

We said goodbye to the little office at 5:20 and walked over to the facility where we had our first multi-family group since North started IOP. It was very much like multi-family at PHP, but with a somewhat different group of kids. Just this fact made it seem like we’re progressing through the steps toward something better.


While all this was going on, we had the roof and some structural damage in the kitchen fixed. Remember when the tree fell on our house last May? It’s taken that long to get our insurance and the contractor to agree on the scope and cost of repairs. The work took place indoors and outdoors and has been going on for a week and a half.  For the past few days, it’s always supposed to be done the next day, in the way of home repairs.

There were three consecutive days when the kitchen was sealed off from the rest of the house with plastic sheeting to keep the dust from spreading. Because of the way our house is configured, this meant every time I needed to use the bathroom, I had to go outside, walk to the back of the house, open the back door, interrupt the workers, and make them move ladders, etc., so I could pass through the kitchen to get to the bathroom. I ended up routing my mid-morning walk to go by places with public restrooms and tried to limit myself to one other visit to the bathroom in the early afternoon but being cut off from the bathroom was kind of stressful for me.

The best part of having this work done, other than not having holes in the roof anymore and having functioning gutters for the first time in eight months at some point in the near future, is that the repairs to the kitchen walls required re-painting. We’ve lived in this house almost twenty-one years and for that whole time there’s been brown-on-tan sponge painting on the kitchen walls left from the previous owners. I never liked it.

Beth said she didn’t care what color the kitchen walls were, so I got to choose. I went with a golden shade of yellow. It was just what I had been envisioning for the kitchen for many years. North campaigned for lavender and I told them that would be very nice in their first apartment, but I had my heart set on yellow.

I like thinking of them in that hypothetical apartment, though, several years from now, maybe in a college town or a bohemian neighborhood of some city. I imagine my beautiful, talented youngest child happy there, drinking coffee (always iced, even in winter) while baking elaborate cakes, or making art, or maybe painting the kitchen walls lavender.