Little Latchkey Kids (#200)

You know what’s weird about walking dogs? Everyone talks to you. Not just dog-lovers and dog owners, either. People who shouldn’t even be talking to you suddenly become your best friends.

Wait a minute, thinks some judgy reader. (You know who you are.) What kind of elitist are you, Autumn? Which people shouldn’t be talking to you?

Chill, judgy reader. I’m talking about children.

Those small, terrifying creatures that most paranoid adults don’t even want to acknowledge, lest a helicopter parent attribute nefarious motives to a casual wave.

Those precious babies that all parents teach to absolutely NOT talk to strangers.

Parents, I’ve got some bad news. All that stranger danger that you tried to instill in your kids? And all your warnings about how not every dog is friendly?

Your kids forget it ALL the second they see me and my mutts. Never mind that my mutts are 80-90 lbs each.

The second my dogs and I step into a park, we’re mobbed by children.

“They’re so cute!” exclaims one kid.

“Can I pet him?” asks another, as he rubs Woofie’s tummy.

“Is she friendly?” says a third, already kissing Fey’s head.

“You’re so lucky, you have TWO,” another child tells me, trying to embrace a dog with each arm. “I don’t even have ONE.”

Woofie laps up all the attention. Fey merely endures it. I await an onslaught of angry parents, yelling at their drool-coated kids and dragging them away.

But there are no parents. This particular park is right next to an elementary school. Working parents drop their kids off early, or the kids walk to school. The kids hang at the park until the bell rings, then sprint through the school’s back gate. At least once a week, we’re engulfed by dog groupies. I tell the dogs to sit and lie down, so Woofie won’t knock any of them over. Woofie obeys.  Amazed kids are all, “Let me try!” “How did they learn that?!”

Next thing I know, I’m teaching basic dog-training to kids who should not even be talking to me.

“It’s a good thing I’m not a predator,” I tell my husband later. “I could have walked off with ten kids, easy, just by telling them, ‘Hey follow me to this windowless van where I keep my dog treats!’ The Pied Piper has nothing on the Dog-Walker.”

Andy maintains I’m exaggerating until the day I’m injured and he has to do the big dog walk. He returns breathless, eyes wild. “All these kids, they swarmed us! They know the dogs by name, they demanded that I put a milkbone on Woofie’s nose so he could flip his head and catch it, and wouldn’t leave me alone until I had Fey dance! And I tried to get away, but these two boys, they followed me to the edge of the park. I had to tell them the school bell was ringing!”

“Probably Chris and David,” I tell him. “They’re brothers, and they walk to school, and they want a dog so badly. Woofie loves them.”

Chris and David only live two streets away.

Chris and David quickly figure out where we live.

Chris and David come knocking after school. “Hi, can we play with Woofie?”

I’m flummoxed. “Uh…I…does your mom know where you are?”

“She’s not home, but she knows all about you and Woofie and she says it’s fine.”

Woofie’s already whining and wedging his head through the front door. I remember my own days as a latchkey kid, desperate for attention, and the two older ladies who were kind when I visited them. (I think I visited because they had candy bowls rather than dogs, though.) “Uh…okay? Just, um, go around to the back gate.”

There’s no way I’m letting those kids in the house. We’re staying in the backyard, in the light, where nosy neighbors can see us and testify that nothing creepier than Woofie trying to hump Chris ever happens.

The boys have a fine time playing tug-o-war and keep away with the ecstatic Woofie. They start showing up weekly. Eventually, I meet their mother. She’s a single mom, working long hours, and seems grateful that I don’t mind the boys visiting.

And I don’t. Woofie lives to steal a toy from a boy and be chased. Fey lives to ambush Woofie and steal the toy from him. After a visit from the boys, Woofie is too tired to dig up the yard and Fey only barks at the street sweeper twice.

The only unhappy creature is Andy. If he comes home and the boys are over, the man radiates resentment. After they leave, if I comment on his obvious disapproval, he says, “I just don’t understand why they’re in my house. With my dogs.” And his scowl deepens, no matter how many times I explain their situation or tell him to show a little compassion.

I complain about Andy’s complaining to my retired neighbor, Mr. B.

Mr. B used to be an investigator for a district attorney. Mr. B laughs at me and says, “You know, Autumn, that’s normal. If your husband was nice to those boys, I’d be worried.”

“What?! Why?”

“Because men just don’t like any kids that aren’t their own. Take lions — they’ll kill the cubs that aren’t their own offspring. If a guy without kids actually wants someone else’s kids in his house, nine times outta ten he’s gonna be a pedophile.”

“For real?”


When I tell Andy this, he laughs and says, “See!”

“So it’s true? You just don’t want any kid that’s not yours around?”

“I guess so.”

“Well, Woofie loves those boys and they love him, so you’re just gonna have to suck it up for now, but I’ll try and send them home before you get home.”


“Does this…does this mean you’re mad because they aren’t your kids? That you want to have a kid of your own?”

Andy thinks for a full minute and says, “I guess so.”

“Huh. You don’t sound very sure.”

“I’m sure. What about you?”

“You know I’ve always been ambivalent about kids,” I remind him. “I feel like I already raised five.”

“But you said you’d be okay with one, back when we were doing premarital counseling,” Andy reminds me.

“And you said you’d marry me even if I never wanted to have kids,” I shoot back.

And there we are.


Famous impasse from The Princess Bride (but everyone knew that, right?)

When the Cavalry Sucks (#181)

You know those big, dysfunctional but lovable white families you used to see in television and film? They were all about siblings being super shitty to each other. Yet when one member of the family was threatened, the family closed ranks and fended off the attacker.

I grew up in a huge, white, broken, dysfunctional family.

I thought those stories were bullshit. Continue reading When the Cavalry Sucks (#181)

We Are Not Water on the Floor (#178)

Would you throw this vase at the patriarchy? What if the patriarchy is your father-in-law?

I was fortunate enough to grow up with parents who didn’t have double standards for girls. No telling how much of this was due to feminism and how much was due to fact that the child labor pool in our house was only ¼ male (sometimes less). Big Brother had to do dishes. My sisters and I had to mow the lawn.

Our value was no less because we were female. Continue reading We Are Not Water on the Floor (#178)

Cuppa Trouble: In-Laws Visit, Part 3 (#167)

I love tea. Before I married my coffee-drinking Chinese-American husband, caffeinated tea was my morning drink of choice.

Andy never understood. “Coffee’s the best. Even the smell is amazing!”

“True,” I agreed. “It’s like an olfactory orgasm. But the taste is so bitter, you need, like, a half cup of cream to make it palatable.”

“Is that what happened to the cream I was saving for my pasta Primavera?!” Continue reading Cuppa Trouble: In-Laws Visit, Part 3 (#167)

What Are You Doing, New Year’s Eve? (#165)

Tonight, as I walked in the rain (with the dog, not Andy, don’t go thinking it was all romantic and shit), I thought about New Year’s Eve. It’s supposed to be a big party, right? Champagne, dancing, party dresses, sparklers, kisses?

That’s what movies say. That’s what TV says. Hell, that’s what my Instagram feed looks like, anyway.

But is it? Continue reading What Are You Doing, New Year’s Eve? (#165)

Tolkien Bear (Christmas Archives)

Merry Christmas to my marvelous readers from Nowhere, New Hampshire!

If you’d like to see some amazing pictures from the White Mountains’ winter wonderland, you can check out my Instagram. If you want stories about my battles with the 1970s kitchen equipment, it’s all on my Twitter.

As I am baking hundreds of cookies for the familial horde in spite of the cursed propane oven, here’s  a Christmas post from the archives.



When my elementary school classmates found out my parents were divorcing, they showered me with horrified questions.

“Are you mad?’

“Are you sad?”

“Are you going to try and get them back together? Like The Parent Trap?”

That last one was clearly from a naïve only child in a loving home. (The Parent Trap is the stupidest movie ever, BTW. Yes, both times.) I heaped scorn on her, of course. “No way! They should never, ever live in the same house AGAIN!”

I debated adding, “Listen, girl, when your mom throws a pot of boiling rice at your dad, even a seven-year-old knows one of them needs a permanent time out.”

I decided that Little Miss Naïve couldn’t handle the truth. I fell back on the envy-inducing cry of broken-home kids everywhere: “Besides, I’m gonna get TWO Christmases.”

My posse subsided into appropriately jealous murmurs. Full Post


Storm Runners (#163)

Like many couples, Andy and I had to sort out the holidays when we got married. I expected a pitched battle.

I opted for the soft opening. “Since your birthday is around Thanksgiving, why don’t you pick where we go and what we do for that holiday and I’ll decide what we do for Christmas.”

Andy countered with, “Sure.” Continue reading Storm Runners (#163)

Countdown to Christmas (#161)


When I was a little girl, I couldn’t wait for December 2nd. Not December 1st, not December 25th, but December 2nd.

That was my day to open a window on the Christmas Advent Calendar.

For my heathen readers and fellow atheists, Advent Calendars have numbered windows. On the first day of December, you open window #1. You might see a Bible verse, or the first line of The Night Before Christmas. There’s a window to open every day until Christmas Day, when you will have plenty of presents to open instead. Continue reading Countdown to Christmas (#161)

A Question of Karma (#159)

img_0369The ancient Sanskrit word “karma” began appearing regularly in the English language about 200 years ago. In Hinduism or Buddhism, “Karman” referenced the sum of a person’s actions, in both this existence and all previous states of existence. How a person acted determined who – or what — they would be in their next state of existence. In other words, if you were a shitty person, you might return as actual shit someday. Or at least a dung beetle. Continue reading A Question of Karma (#159)