Yesterday, I posted a super brief scribble late at night because I was utterly spent by an hours-long battle with a Russian-made children’s jungle gym.

Backing up a little bit, we have been working a lot with Henry’s therapists to find ways to help him regulate and self-soothe. He does often seek sensory input, which he’ll get by doing things like jumping off everything in sight so he can feel it in his feet.

We have a little indoor trampoline, which helps him, but Henry’s occupational therapist suggested he could also benefit from climbing and pulling activities, so we found this affordable little wall mounted jungle gym thing that would let him climb and be another way for him to get energy out in a healthy way.

We ordered it and were expecting it would show up several weeks from now, but boom, it got here early. I guess it must have shipped before this whole Suez Canal thing.

On Friday, while I ran some errands, Erin and the kids reorganized our upstairs play room to make room for the gym, and I got supplies to install it. It would be equally accurate for me to say that I have perfect pitch and that pickled eggs smothered in vegemite are my favorite foods as it would be for me to say that I am good at or enjoy home improvement projects.

Still, this one seemed doable and while I was a little nervous, I dove in Friday afternoon. I was most jittery about locating the studs and properly drilling support 2 x 6s into the wall than I was about the actual assembly of the gym. Turns out I had that backwards.

Measuring out and setting up the frame actually went pretty smoothly. As for assembly, as a longtime experienced veteran of putting together IKEA furniture, I figured, “how hard can this be?


Well, much like IKEA, this product being made in Russia meant that the instructions were largely picture-based. And like IKEA, this proves that by trying to make instructions as clear to as many people from as many different languages as possible, you often end up with something that probably doesn’t make much sense to anyone.

It was a slog, and hour after hour went by. The kids helpfully played nearby, often saying encouraging things like “When can we play on the jungle gym,” and “Are you ever going to be done?”

Around hour 6, I will fully admit my level of frustration and anger began to peak. This really went into overdrive on a particular part of the assembly that had these metal clamps through which a bolt was supposed to go, but they were juuuuuust a little too small to get to the opening.


So I was left to pull and try to stretch the metal with a pliers to make it work.

I’ve known several people from Russia, and I know them to be determined, tough and willing to push through any challenge. Maybe this sort of thing is common, and bending metal in a jungle gym assembly was a very lame deleted scene in Drago’s hard core training montage from Rocky IV.

As an American, I just want everything to snap together easily and get angry when presented with inconveniences like having to spend hour or so bending metal. I was downright surly, I will admit. Cursing like Yosemite Sam at a partially installed jungle gym. Erin suggested I call it a night, but I was stubbornly committed to getting it done so I wouldn’t have to deal with it the next day. By now it was after 9:00 and she was about to take the kids to bed. I heard Henry down the hall say, “Dad is frustrated.”

A few minutes later, as I angrily pulled at a metal clap and growled, Henry walked into the room with this puppy dog look of concern in his eyes and said, “Daddy, are you OK?”

And then my heart melted. It was so sweet and he really made a point to come over and check on me because he knew I was struggling. I knelt down and gave him a hug, and figured at this point, OK, maybe it was time I stepped away from this.

I did a few last things and left the gym like the partially completed Death Star in Return of the Jedi.

Erin also brought me a box that had just arrived that evening on the front step. I opened it and found this…a giant box of Whatchamacallit bars.


And I smiled. Two things about this. First of all, I loved these candy bars as a kid. They were my favorite for a long time. When I was about 5 or 6, I asked for a bike for my birthday and my dad joked about the fact that I’d get a candy bar instead. When I opened my present, it was a Whatchamacallit bar, and I pretended this was the greatest, even though I was clearly hoping for the bike. Dad then took me downstairs where of course, the bike was waiting. He was always a kidder, and I always remembered that birthday.

So to mark this birthday, Mom and Dad sent me a whole box of these things. And this time, at that particularly moment, I don’t know that any package could have made me feel better than that did. I wolfed down one of the candy bars and loved every bite, Noom calorie counter be damned.

And here’s the other thing. I’ve been working my way through this book, The Artists Way in an attempt to sharpen my writing skills. It has lots of exercises and I’m in a chapter now dealing with childhoood stuff. Two nights ago I did an assignment that asked me to list out three treats I loved as a kid, and to then get one of those treats for myself this week.

I’ll let you guess what favorite childhood treat I chose.

I am a person who wants to have faith in a sort of universal force looking out for us, but sometimes struggle with that. And then there are times when I say “I need to treat myself to a Whatchamacallit bar, something I haven’t had in at least 20 years,” and then a case of them literally shows up at my door.

Whatever the purpose or reason, thanks to my parents for sending those. It made me smile and gave me the belief in a better tomorrow when I’ll get that damn gym assembled.