Bobby and/or I make a point of checking Nick’s blood sugar before we go to bed. This involves using the finger-pricker to draw blood while he’s sleeping (“Ow!” he sometimes protests as it startles him half-awake) and using the glucose meter to get the number. Between 125 and 200 is ideal. Up to 250 is acceptable at night. From 80-125 is typically good, but 100 and below prompts concern about him dropping too low. Low is 70 or below. If he drops while we’re all asleep, we may not realize it. This is why I poke his finger at 11 p.m., late enough so that his short-term insulin has mostly worked through his system and the reading can be considered an accurate indicator of where his blood sugar will be for the night. We let him sleep downstairs on the futon often; it’s easier than going up-and-down the stairs repeatedly. Also, the noise and light from down the hall sometimes bothers Chelsea, no matter how quiet and dim I attempt to keep this process.

We ate dinner (and gave the corresponding insulin shot) late, so I couldn’t check Nick before 11 p.m. When I dabbed the spot of blood onto the test strip, the number 71 flashed up. Low enough to treat. Before, in these moments, I’d try to wake him up from a sound sleep for applesauce or toast – and who wants to wake up for that? Fortunately, tonight I discovered some ice cream in the freezer, miraculously leftover from last night, which encouraged his compliance. The fat content makes for a steadier absorption of sugars, too, so in this case, Breyer’s Vanilla Bean is the “healthy” choice.

At 11:40 p.m., I’ll check again. My eyes want to close as I’m reading Poe Ballantine’s new collection of essays (description pasted below – I’m too tired to write anything myself) despite the sharpness, grace and humor of his prose. I wish I could write about this, like that. Instead, I’m just passing time, listening to Nick mumble in his sleep, hoping the next number will be a “good” one and I can let my eyes close, perhaps wake up in time for a no-guilt dawn patrol (the swell intervals have picked up in the last couple hours), keep everyone healthy and happy another day.

Poe Ballantine’s second collection of personal essays follows in the tradition of Things I Like About America. Stories range from “The Irving,” which details Mr. Ballantine’s diabolical plan to punch John Irving in the nose after opening for him before an audience of 2,000 people that launched the literary festival, Wordstock; to “Wide-Eyed in the Gaudy Shop,” which tells how, in Mexico, the narrator met and later married his wife, Cristina; to “Blessed Meadows for Minor Poets,” the devastating tale of how after years of sacrifice and persistence, Mr. Ballantine finally secured a contract with a major publisher for a short story collection that never came to fruition. Ever present in this collection of essays are the odd jobs, eccentric characters, boarding houses, buses, and beer that populate Mr. Ballantine’s landscape and make his stories uniquely his own. The title story, “501 Minutes to Christ,” was included in the Houghton-Mifflin anthology, Best American Essays 2006.

Poe Ballantine is a whiskey-drinking, floor-mopping, gourmet-cooking, wildly prolific writer with a penchant for social commentary currently living and working in Chadron, Nebraska. His work has previously appeared in The Atlantic Monthly Online, The Sun, Kenyon Review, and The Coal City Review. In addition to garnering numerous Pushcart and O’Henry nominations, Ballantine’s work has been included in the 1998 Best American Short Story and 2006 Best American Essay anthologies.