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Stinging Words

Pastor Holm appeared at the door while I sat curled in the brown leather chair in the living room, pressing Sophia’s spit-up covered purple dress against my face. I had been only slightly aware that a visitor had arrived and I had no intention of getting up to greet whoever it was.

I saw Pastor Holm crane his neck to look down the hallway, and after spotting me in the chair, he walked confidently towards me, like he was bringing some good news that couldn’t wait. He bent down to reach me, embraced me with all his strength, lifting me partially off the chair. I was weak and unresponsive; confused by his presence in my parents’ home.

I had seen this pastor at the front of our church but never up close. I wasn’t a regular attendee of service so I didn’t know him well. And I never imagined his arms around me…comforting me. No, that was for old people. Sick people. Grieving people. I didn’t yet understand that I was now the latter.

Pastor Holm asked my mom if there was a quiet place where we could talk and then somehow I walked, trancelike, downstairs and sat on the green sectional, pressed up against Chris, weakly holding his hand.

There were no formalities. Pastor Holm just asked what had happened. It was like Chris was ready to explode if he didn’t get the story out. Sophia had stopped breathing the night before, he began. He had found her when he went to check on her just one last time. He pulled her body from the crib and tried to do CPR. How he didn’t do it right. How she had vomited and how he could still taste it in his mouth.

By the end of his recollection, he was panting, sobbing, looking desperately back and forth between me and Pastor Holm, trying to find some comfort.

The room went silent. I realized I had been gripping Chris’s hand tighter as he retold what had happened. Because it was the first time I had heard what actually happened the night before.

Not knowing how to comfort Chris, and still trying to sort out in my head what he had just revealed, I looked to Pastor Holm for some answers. I locked eyes with him and saw the tears streaming down his face. He reached out his hand and I grabbed it, like there was some strength there that I could tap into.

And then he lowered his head and spoke. Quietly at first. “This is one of the hardest things I ever have to say to people,” he began. He sat up straighter, preparing to deliver his news. “But I must say it. Chris, Prinna, she was never yours to begin with.”

It was like getting sucker punched in the stomach.

Of course she was ours, I wanted to scream! We created her and I birthed her and we had taken care of her every need for ten months. I slumped back into the couch, disappointed that the news he had come to deliver was just this.

Despite my very visible retreat from the conversation, he went on. He tried to explain how Sophia was never ours to begin with because she belonged to God. By the time he finished, my body was heaving, trying to hold back the tears. How could we have allowed this man into our house to upset us more than we already were? How could he sit there and hold our hands, shed tears for our daughter, and tell us such an awful thing? I felt an intense hatred for this man for telling us this lie. He was wrong. He was just simply wrong.

As the years passed, I frequently would think of the words Pastor Holm had said to us that morning. And it would take almost five years. But eventually, eventually, I would realize how right he was. And I would finally be comforted by his words.

Success at The Moth!

I had one of the most memorable experiences of my life this past Saturday. I performed a live story on stage at The Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul in front of 1,059 people. It was intense, it was scary, it was incredible. Intense because I knew the reaction my story would get. Scary because the biggest audience I’ve ever spoken in front of was about 20 people. And incredible because as I stood at the microphone, I closed my eyes and I felt…Sophia. I know she was looking down on me and giving me the strength and the courage to tell my story. And I know she was proud of me. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

Thank you to all who were able to attend – I felt the support and love from my family and friends in addition to the spirit of Sophia. And it’s what got me through.

Stay tuned for a recording of my performance – they tell me it will be available soon. But for now, here’s a peek and how I looked on that big stage!!

Today’s Revelation

Today is Sophia’s 5th Angel Birthday – exactly five years ago tonight, she died. I’ve been searching and searching these past few weeks trying to find something to honor her memory and acknowledge how much has changed in the past five years. A balloon release? A dinner with the family? A trip to the pumpkin patch? Nothing seemed quite right and I went to bed last night feeling a little sad that today was going to be even harder.

But then, as it has happened every year on this day, things just seemed to work out. We woke up to find a statue of an angel reading to a little baby in our front yard (still can’t figure out who put it there!) Then we had an impromptu breakfast with my mom where she gave us a bright pink Angel food cake. I received calls and Facebook messages and all sorts of signs that people were thinking of us and of Sophia.

We were sitting in a restaurant for lunch when Chris asked me if I thought I might like to ride “the rollercoaster” again. In case you don’t remember or didn’t know, four years ago I wrote a story called Rollercoasting. It was a story about being in the Mall of America just days after Sophia had died. On a whim, I decided to ride a rollercoaster with my out-of-town aunts. I had been so numb and in such shock that I rode this rollercoaster just to feel something – even if it was fear.

At first I said no way to Chris’s suggestion that I do it again. I am absolutely terrified of rollercoasters – I hate them in fact.

But I couldn’t get Chris’s suggestion out of my head all afternoon. There was something about taking on this rollercoaster that seemed like the right thing to do today.

So, dear readers, I rode that rollercoaster again today! And, as I had hoped, I had a revelation while doing so.

Life can really suck sometimes. And sometimes you just have to close your eyes, grit your teeth, grunt or even scream. But you get through it. Sometimes your stomach will drop out and you’ll feel sick to your stomach. Sometimes the speed with which things change can make you want to scream “JUST STOP!” And sometimes you need to “go it alone” with your loved ones cheering you on rather than being right there with you.

But, other times, you’ll soar. The wind will whip through your hair. You’ll feel almost weightless. The speed will be invigorating and the adrenaline and nerves will push you to new heights. You’ll grip the safety bar and hold on for dear life, trying to just enjoy the ride.

I looked at Chris and my three kids’ faces when I got off the rollercoaster. And what I saw in each of their eyes was pride. For my kids, pride that their mommy had accomplished this amazing feat of bravery. For Chris, pride that I’ve come so far since the last time I rode it.

So what I’d like to say on this very special day, is that I’m not healed. I will never be healed or recovered or all better. I will never have a day when I don’t think about my sweet Sophia. I will never forget her and I will always try to find ways to honor her short life.

No, I am not healed or recovered or all better.

But I’m not stuck.

I am moving forward.

Just like that rollercoaster.

The Moth Mainstage

Well, the most exciting thing has happened, my loyal readers. I have been selected as a storyteller in an event called The Moth Mainstage. Let me tell you a bit about this incredible opportunity.

On November 10, 2012, I, along with four others, will tell a story to an audience of about 1,000 people at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, MN.

The stories will each be 10 minutes.

The stories will be true.

The stories will be told with no notes or cheat sheets or anything. I’ll just stand there at a microphone and tell my story.

When I called the “PitchLINE” to “pitch” my story several months ago, I never thought anything would truly happen. But instead, I got an email and then a phone call from The Moth asking me for more details on my story. I worked with a producer for a few weeks to craft my story and then last week, I got word that I was being “cast” in the Mainstage event in St. Paul!

This is by far the biggest venue I have ever had to tell my story (well, I guess if you count the internet, that’s not totally true!) I will have 1,058 captive people who have paid good money to come and hear good stories.

Many people have wondered how I could do something like this. They’ve said that they would be nervous wrecks. They’ve told me I must be crazy!

But when I walk up to that microphone, and I look out at that audience, and when I see the faces of my friends and family, I will say a silent prayer to Sophia.

And I will know how proud of me she will be.


Someone finally said it to me.

“Time heals all wounds.”

This October, it will be five years since we’ve lost Sophia. It took five years for someone to say those words to me.

I guess the words were inevitable. And maybe there is something about the five-year mark that makes people say them.

At the five-year mark, people have grown weary from hearing about life’s past traumas.

“We all have traumas and we learn to deal with them,” someone says.

At the five-year mark, people think the memories have faded, the nightmares over.

“Post traumatic stress disorder,” they say, “well, that should pass.”

At the five-year mark, people want coping skills to be in place and therapy to be complete.

“Why don’t you cut back on your medication and just see what happens?” another suggests.

And sometimes, the words are too harsh for a vulnerable heart.

“You cannot just ride on the coattails of your tragedy.”

I cannot expect people to understand what it is like to lose a child. I cannot claim to be the only one to have ever lost a loved one or to have gone through something difficult. I can’t fault people for not understanding this. And I can’t fault them for wanting me to “be better.”

But how do you explain to people what it’s like to send your First Grader off to school knowing that there should be a Kindergartener next to her?

How do you convey the irrational terror that takes over your body when your child is out of your sight…even just in the next room?

How do you tell someone what it’s like to open the bedroom door of your child’s room every night to check on them, terrified to find some horror on the other side?

How do you explain the nightmares?

Flashbacks of police interrogations?

The cold sweats and the sheer PANIC that takes over your body when the phone rings?

And it’s just as terrifying to accept that these are things I will likely deal with for a very long time.

Re-Trauma Part 2

The medication started taking effect while Perek drove me to the police station in his car. Calls had been made, a babysitter for Annabelle lined up, all so that Chris and I could go to the police station that day instead of having to wait until the next. 
When we walked into the police station I expected to see bars and cells and prisoners but all I saw was a large waiting room and a nice looking woman behind a receptionist-like desk talking quietly on the phone. She politely asked the caller to please hold when we approached her.
“My name is Prinna Boudreau. I’m here to see Officer Briggs,” I said through the microphone on the glass window.
“Just one moment, I’ll let her know you’re here. Please have a seat,” she said nicely.
I didn’t have a seat. I couldn’t. I just wanted to focus on this being over. 
And then Chris flew in through the door in a sort of rage and encircled me in his arms like a scared child.
“I can’t believe they did this to her,” he said to Perek, as if I weren’t even there.
“Yeah, that call had her pretty shaken up,” Perek said. “I’m just glad you could get in today; I don’t know how she would have made it through the night.”

Re-Trauma Part 1

The below and next two posts require a bit of a warning. This is upsetting stuff. If you don’t know already, Chris and I were subjected to some pretty awful treatment by the police following Sophia’s death. This is how it began…


The funeral came and went, the out of town guests eventually returned home, and I continued to sit for hours in the brown leather chair, holding a little purple dress with her spit up on the collar, wondering when I was going to wake up already.
And perhaps that is why my guard was down that day when the police called.
I was working on the computer with my brother, Perek, when the call came.
“Is this Prinna Boudreau?” the woman on the other line said.
“Yes, this is Prinna,” I replied, correcting her pronunciation.
“Prinna, this is Lieutenant Adams; I interviewed you at the hospital the night your daughter died…October 9, 2007. I just have a few more questions for you and I’d like to have you and Chris come in separately to talk. Are you available some time tomorrow?” she asked.
Questions? Separately? Tomorrow?
My blood ran cold. I grasped desperately for Perek and clung to his shoulders to prevent myself from falling to the floor. I instinctively put my head between my knees to keep from hyperventilating. The room started to spin wildly.
But I tried to compose myself; I didn’t want to appear guilty of something so I said, “Yes, absolutely, would 10:00 work for you?”
“Yes, please be here at 10:00 tomorrow. Oh one more quick question,” Officer Adams said. “What time did you say your babysitter was there the day that Sophia died?”
As soon as I hung up the phone, all hell broke loose. I went tearing around the house like a wild animal, screaming that they were going to arrest me. That they thought we had killed Sophia. That they were taking me in tomorrow and I was going to jail.
I bounced around from room to room as Perek followed me running his hands through his hair looking terrified. He didn’t understand what was happening but he knew I needed help. He made some phone calls from the office while I continued my crazed tirade through the first and then second level of our house.
At some point he caught me and led me into the bathroom asking, “where are those pills that Dr. Taylor gave you, Prinna. Where are they? Show me where they are!” He still had the phone perched on his shoulder and I knew he was getting direction from someone…probably my mom.
I opened the top drawer in the bathroom and pointed to a pill bottle, which he grabbed desperately and struggled to open.
“How many do you take?” he demanded, grabbing my shoulders and forcing eye-contact.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” I kept repeating. I could see my own reflection in the bathroom mirror and I looked like a madwoman.
I hadn’t taken many of the pills so it was an honest answer. But then it occurred to me that maybe they would make these feelings stop, or at least calm me down, so I grabbed at the pill bottle, intent on taking as many as I could get my hands on.
Perek fought me for them. He was somehow able to read the label on the bottle during our little tug-of-war.
“You can have one, Prinna. It says you can have one.”
I took one and collapsed onto Perek, begging him to tell me I was a good mother. Begging him to tell me I wasn’t going to jail.

A Glimpse Into My “Writing Process”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I didn’t plan to post the below piece. But I thought it *might* be interesting for people to read about the process that I sometimes go through to find a story, or the beginning of a story. It’s not pretty but sometimes, if I get lucky, it works.
I’m wide awake now. Sitting in the recliner, blank Word document in front of me. No kids, nothing to do but write. So why can’t I write? I have nothing to write about. But I have everything to write about. Everyone tells me I must tell my story. But how? It’s too big. It’s too overwhelming. I have to stop thinking about how to write something that will sell. I just need to write.
But I’m worried that I am not a good writer. I tell myself that when I sit down to write. That can’t help. There are tons of books out there written by not-so-great writers.  Why can’t I be one of them? Well, I think I might be a good writer, that’s why. And it scares me. It’s so much pressure to know that I have this ability and that it’s so hard to use. Why can’t it be easier? Why can’t it be like a math problem where you just solve it and you’re done? Instead it requires just the right setting, just the right time, no distractions, the right temperature, the right chair and desk and computer. Everything has to be perfect for me to start writing.
I’ve heard that if you just write, the magic will happen. I saw a speech by the woman who wrote Eat, Pray, Love and she said writing can be magical. A story floats by you and you grab it and it writes itself. That’s never happened to me. I’ve never been writing with someone else’s hand.
I’ve written some good things, I guess. My stories have moved people to tears. I can make people laugh with my writing. I like making them laugh and cry at the same time – that’s really tough to do.
I have this story to tell. A story of losing my daughter one cold October night. I force myself to write about it and it stings. My fingers ache as I try to make these feelings and thoughts come together on a page. Trying to make sense of something that doesn’t and never will make sense. I try to make it sound like I’m healing – maybe if I type about healing, I will start to actually heal. But the truth is, I do not feel like I’m healing. I feel like I’m stuck. I’m stuck in denial. I’m not feeling the right feelings about this loss. I should cry more. I should be paralyzed with pain, not having friends over for dinner, making gingerbread houses with my kids, getting myself pregnant again. No, I don’t think I’ve let myself and my spirit completely accept this loss that has suddenly defined the person I am and will be – oh, Prinna, the one whose daughter died. Yup, that’s me now.
I’ll delete this entire document after I write it. It is nothing. Nothing came to me. Nothing magical is happening. And I’m panicking. Because remember, I have this huge story to tell. This story that could help people and move people and scare people. Why is all of this happening to me if I can’t channel the words to tell the story? There must be a reason all of this is happening to me, right? Because if there is no reason, then life is just plain cruel.
I asked God to help me tell my story. It was one day while I was driving on Hwy 494. I was crying. I was listening to Kate Hopper on the radio, talking about her writing class for mothers. It’s the closest to divine intervention that I’ve ever experienced. I went home and emailed Kate and begged to get in her class. And so I was on my way to telling my story. Something good was finally going to come from this horrific loss. I was going to write a best selling book.
But the words are stuck in my throat. They are stuck in my core and they can’t make their way down to my fingers to type them on the keyboard. If I can’t type something right, why type it? If my words don’t do my daughter justice, why write them at all?
Still planning to delete this whole thing. Nobody ever needs to see it. Nobody ever needs to even know that I’m up at 6:18am on a Sunday morning trying to channel the magic.
My girls are sleeping. Eve will wake up first – she always does. She’ll waddle out of her room in her saggy diaper whining for juice. “No milk…juice” she’ll repeat 50 times until I get out of bed and find a non-rotty sippy cup for her. Then she’ll lay in my bed with me and snuggle up under the covers, sipping loudly from her cup. Her hair is beyond crazy in the mornings. I don’t fix it, I don’t brush it. I just let it go wild, like her. At some point, she’ll remember the TV and she’ll start whining for Dora. Chris usually turns it on because I’m dozing again. But within minutes, a smiley-faced Annabelle will appear and want her morning hug and kiss. No whining, no demands. Just a hug and a kiss, her blanket and the TV. That’s all she needs in the morning.
The problem is, Eve doesn’t like it when I hug and kiss Annabelle. She’ll shove her aside and try to snuggle so close to me that I can’t breathe. It’s sibling rivalry – I was supposed to prevent this.
The internet is down. Now I really can’t be productive. All I have is Word and this failing story. I need the internet. I need it so I can pretend I’m reseaching for my writing – I’m reading about writing. I’m reading other peoples’ writing. But all it is is another thing to keep me from writing anything at all. The internet has become a safe haven – a place where I can escape. I don’t want to write about the internet, though. That’s really boring.
And already I’m wondering if this is good enough for someone else to read. Maybe it is actually good and I could get it published as an article on writer’s block and how to perpetuate it. See, I can’t stop trying to write something that will sell.
So now I’ve done it. I saved this document. I called it Ramblings. I guess that’s all this is. I wish I could have titled it Chapter 1. Or Prologue. But no such luck…all we have here is ramblings.
It’s freezing cold in the house now. Probably the reason nothing is happening. Chris probably set the thermostat to go down 15 degrees at night to save money. Seems pointless considering 9 nights out of 10, the guy sleeps on the couch with the TV blaring all night. That has to offset the cost of lowering the heat.
My Christmas decorations are up. They were all so shiny and new for the first week. Now they look dull and used and tired. The fake garland on the stairs seems to be wilting. Everything seems to have a chip in it or is hanging just a little bit crooked. But I don’t want to write about Christmas decorations I guess.
I don’t remember holding my daughter’s body for the last time. I know I did. I remember trying to say just the right things to her. Like she was going on this long journey and as her mother, I needed to send her off with some valuable knowledge and lessons and guidance. But I couldn’t stop thinking about how heavy she was. I guess that’s what they mean by “dead weight.” I’ve never asked anyone why she was so heavy. I think about it a lot. Why was she so heavy? She hadn’t been dead for that long – what happened to her body that it was so heavy? There, I said something I didn’t want to ever have to say. The mystery of the heavy dead baby body. So that was weird, I started off by saying I don’t remember holding her and turns out, I do. Strange.
Well there, I tried writing something hard. It was awkward. It felt forced. If I have to feel that way during the whole process of writing this book, I’ll be a miserable wreck by the end.
I think maybe if someone would buy me a ticket to Mexico, I could write this book.  Or maybe if I put “write book” as a task on my Google task list, I will write it and be able to check it off some day.  Wipe my hands together like you do when you’ve finished something and say “ok, so what’s next?”  I want to do that. I want to hit “save” in Word and type “Final Book” as the filename. So I can move on. So I can be rid of this story. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of living life like it is made up of chapters. Oooh, I’ll say to myself sometimes. This will make a great chapter. Why must I keep needing more chapters? I don’t want anything to be happening that is worthy of a chapter. I just want to have a normal, boring life that isn’t book-worthy. Then I wouldn’t have to get up at 5:52 and try to channel the magic.
Well, I guess I’m done here. I’m disappointed nothing “happened.” It’s not for lack of trying, though. I did write…hold on….1708 words. That’s more than I wrote yesterday or the day before. And I didn’t go back and read what I wrote 100 times, fixing punctuation and rewording things like I normally do. I just kept writing and this is what I got.

Being Tested

February 26, 2008
The noise coming from down the hallway is Annabelle, making the mommy dollhouse figure give the baby dollhouse figure a timeout.
My eyes burn and my head, even my hair, throbs from the last couple hours of crying. It’s been just four months since Sophia died.
I turn and make my way to the linen closet just down the hall and open the door. Like everything else in my life these days, it’s completely out of control. We brought way too much for this small, temporary place that is supposed to be home. Ninety-percent of the junk in the closet has not been used in the two months we’ve lived here. I was selfish when I packed up our four-bedroom house in Mankato just a couple weeks after Sophia died. But I was angry with God for taking her and then taking our home. I wanted to bring everything she had touched.
 I push the thought of a quick straightening-up session to the back of my head because I have something more important to do. I grab the white and pink box that has been hiding in the way back and close the door. I make my way back down the creaky hallway to the bathroom.
How different this is from all the other times I’ve taken a pregnancy test. The excited anticipation is not here this time. The urgent desperation to see those two pink lines absent. Instead, my body and mind feel cold and numb.
I tear the box open and throw it into the trash along with the instructions, which I of course do not need after the number of tests I took trying to get pregnant before.
Pee on the test strip.
Wait two minutes.
Observe the two dark pink lines in the test strip window.
I’m pregnant.
I get to see my own reaction to the news because I glance up from the test and see my reflection in the mirror. And I think I’m smiling. Am I actually happy? Yes, I’m really smiling. I must be happy! Yes, I remember this feeling!
I practically skip down the hallway, now unaware of the creaks and groans from the floorboards. I scoop Annabelle up from her play spot on the white rug and squeeze her until I feel her bones and she tosses back her head laughing.
“Guess what?” I ask her.
“What?” she replies with genuine anticipation.
“Mommy’s going to have a baby!” I announce.
“Ooooh,” she says with still genuine, but slightly confused, excitement.
Then she smiles, too. Is she actually happy?
She sits back down in front of her dollhouse, picks up the mommy figure, then baby figure, and in her nice mommy voice asks the baby, “who wants ice cream for breakfast?”


“You should go to the mall,” my mom said. She grabbed another pan from the counter and began to scrub it with the SOS pad.  “You haven’t left the house since Thursday. It’s important to get out with the living again.” She continued. We could talk, we could get some coffee, and maybe a bite to eat.
She couldn’t have known that just four days after Sophia died, we’d also experience the nauseating taste of grief.
The three of us stand in the center of the Eden Prairie mall rotunda, where the black carpeting blends away into blond ceramic tile, waiting for the glass elevator to arrive. Chris with his hands in his jean pockets, gazing up to monitor its slow descent. His eyes are puffy and gray hair has recently won the battle over brown. Time for another “Just for Men” shampoo treatment, I decide. He better not get any on the shower curtain this time because it never comes out.
I’m wearing my bulky great hooded sweatshirt with black yoga pants – the faded ones from New York & Company, not my nice ones from Ann Taylor Loft. I glance down at Annabelle and realize one of her socks is light pink and the other, dark. She’s quiet and content, clearly not bothered by her fashion faux pas.  Does she know this is the first time we’ve taken her out without Sophia?” I wonder.
The click of high-heeled shoes surrounds us from behind. I feel the Quest salesperson’s eyes bearing down on me from the nearby kiosk. “What a great location by the elevator,” I think. “An endless stream of a fresh meat.” I consciously put on my disinterested face to guard myself from his inevitable sales pitch.
My arms feel confused pushing the single stroller and I fidget with my hair, dig in my pockets and feel small bits of cracker and old receipts that should be in my purse. I feel the warm light pouring in from the huge rectangular skylights above me. I smell coffee. Chris shifts his weight and we prepare for the doors to open.
The heavy doors open too slowly. Chris enters sluggishly and I follow pushing Annabelle to the back of the oversized, empty vault. Chris veers to the right and I follow his lead, grabbing for his hand, perhaps for comfort but probably for stability from my shaking legs.
I glance to the right and notice a plethora of  little handprints on the otherwise clear glass elevator wall and my heart chuckles knowing they are right at stroller height. Annabelle tugs at the stroller straps; something must be pinching but she’s quiet so it can’t be that bad. But are the memories haunting her privately, too?
Chris presses the 2 button and the doors begin to close. A hand reaches in to stop them. A woman about my age, jams an umbrella stroller through the opening, then steps in herself, followed by a screaming, sticky faced girl of about five and a waft of cool air.
The woman guides the stroller to the opposite back corner, hoists her bulging diaper bag higher onto her shoulder and tucks a piece of sweaty hair behind her ear.
“Can you push 2 for me,” she says breathlessly.
“Duh, there are only two floors and we’re on one,” I think, knowing Chris is thinking the same.
“Sure,” Chris says and pushes the already lit 2 button. She doesn’t notice her silly mistake.
The girl in her stroller is fishing fruit snacks out from the seat beneath her and I wonder how old they might be. The five year old yanks on her mom’s khaki pants. “You said we could go to the playland!” she wails.
The woman rolls her eyes and wiggles to free her pant leg. She sighs loudly and looks out the elevator window, probably trying to think up an excuse. I want to tell her a good line is that the playland is closed today, but decide that might be inappropriate.
The girl continues to wail unintelligible demands, clearly trying to recruit the help of her younger sister, who is much more interested in the treasures in her stroller seat. The woman glares at the 5 year old but then smiles politely as she turns her gaze to me.
“Your lucky,” she says, sizing up the contents of my stroller. “Take my advice and stick with just the one.”
“No kidding,” Chris replies.
She doesn’t notice her silly mistake.