Wide Awake (#295)

I was a night owl as a child and an insomniac as an adult. I stayed awake replaying the events of the day—especially everything I did wrong. Therapy and getting an insane amount of exercise cured me in my twenties. After a miserable pregnancy (with equally miserable sleep), I woke up for breastfeeding several times a night. Once Baby D dropped nighttime nursing, I woke up because I’d gotten used to waking up. The slightest noises woke me up because Something Might Be Wrong with Baby D.

Then I woke up because something WAS wrong with Baby D, either an illness or a scream of “Want dinner!” at midnight.

My husband Andy never woke up unless I punched him in the arm, which, as I slept less and he snored more, made me want to punch him even harder.

Chronic sleep-deprivation is torture and it makes you psychotic.

In a perfect world, we’d have had a house with an extra bedroom where I could sleep. Our world is not perfect and housing in Los Angeles is expensive. I could sleep with the snoring husband in the super expensive comfy bed or the snoring dogs on the not-so comfy couch.

I mostly slept in the bed, using earplugs and Benadryl. My sleep improved. It might have improved more if Andy ever heard Baby D crying before I did, but I always woke up first–even with earplugs. Whatever super-critical psychological quirk made me notice dirt, crooked pictures, or anything out of place also woke me up if there was any unusual noise at night.

I swapped Benadryl for all kinds of different sleep meds, some of which I learned were also anti-psychotics, (possibly why Andy is still alive). Other medications made me appear drunk (Andy is a huge fan of Ambien for just that reason).

Sleep drugs helped, except on the nights when a cat hairballed, Woofie puked up purloined cabbage, or some idiots decided to use our lawn as a toilet.

One night, though, I woke up to…nothing. Baby D was asleep. The pets and husband were snoring softly. Yet something had gotten through earplugs, Ambien, and NyQuil: a faint whiff of smoke. I prowled the house, opening windows and trying to see if someone was smoking outside on a late walk. The street, sidewalk, and backyard were empty. Yet the smell of smoke remained.

Because I will always err on the side of caution (or maybe because I was pissed he was asleep while I was awake AGAIN), I finally shook Andy.

“Thanks for not punching me,” he muttered groggily. “What’s up?”

“I smell smoke, but the house isn’t on fire and there’s no one around smoking—”

“Oh, shit!” Andy was out of bed and out the backdoor before I finished talking. He  dragged the garden hose to the dog run on the far side of our detached garage. I trailed after him, utterly confused – until I saw that our trashcan was spewing smoke.

Andy flipped back the lid and turned on the hose. In seconds, the small fire was out. Aside from the melted rubbish container, there was no damage.

After heaping praise on my quick-thinking firefighter, I asked, “How on earth did you immediately know what was on fire?”

“Well, um, you know, if it wasn’t the house or garage, then that was a logical place, and um…also I put the coals from smoking that pork butt in the trash tonight,” Andy finally admitted. “They must not have been completely extinguished.”

“Ohhhh. All is explained,” I answered. “Except—why am I up instead of the dogs?! I took Ambien AND NyQuil. They’re supposed to have a great sense of smell and they haven’t even left their dog beds! Slackers!”

“You know that Fey goes off-duty at night.”

“But we could have burned up!”

“No, honey. We will never burn up. No one will ever break in undetected. When Baby D is a teenager, he will never be able to sneak out at night. But not because of the dogs. Because you will always wake up.”

“Is that why everyone else in this house sleeps so soundly at night? Because I’m on guard?!”

Andy patted my shoulder. “That’s why I married you.”

It was a near thing, but I did not punch him in the arm.

One Smug Squirrel (#286)

There weren’t many squirrels around when Andy and I moved into our little house in Southern California. The native Western gray squirrel lives off oak trees and hangs out mostly in forests. SoCal isn’t big on forests.

The few squirrels we did begin to see weren’t natives. They looked exactly like the squirrels I grew up with in D.C. and Virginia. That’s because they were Eastern fox squirrels, brought to Santa Monica by veterans a century ago as pets. These squirrels are savvy little scavengers. They used telephone and electrical wires to colonize Los Angeles County.

They’ve bamboozled numerous elderly neighbors into feeding them peanuts daily. Continue reading One Smug Squirrel (#286)

New Cat (#278)

When my husband mellowed on the subject of a new cat, I contacted the group that had rescued our dog Fey from the streets of Los Angeles.

“We have a big dog who tries to play with everyone and everything,” I explained. “We mostly trained him out of chasing our old cats, but Woofie’s not totally reliable. Do you have a cat that’s okay with dogs?”

The volunteer said, “Oh, do we have a cat for you!” Continue reading New Cat (#278)

Felines & Persuasion (#273)

My child was always fascinated by cats.

My cats were only fascinated by my child when he was an immobile source of warmth. The minute he developed enough motor control to grab their fur, the cats were out.

Bat Cat and Commando Cat had been my pampered bachelorette cats. They grudgingly adapted to both husband and rescue dogs. But small fingers pulling fur? Hell no. They hid up in their scratching posts or heated cat bed.

Baby D had a boy-loving rescue dog who would have happily played chase or keep away with him for hours. But Baby D was contrary. He scorned the in-your-face, I-love-you-so-much creatures. He wanted the ones that were hard to get.

“This,” I told my husband, “does not bode well for his future dating life.” Continue reading Felines & Persuasion (#273)

Dirty Baby, Healthy Baby (#270)

Unless it’s in his garden, my Chinese-American husband doesn’t notice dirt. I’m the one who notices when there’s pet hair piling up and hauls out the vacuum—usually every few days. I like my house neat, especially if we have company coming over.

But once our high maintenance, non-napping Baby D arrived, the vacuum disappeared into the hall closet, sometimes for weeks.

We soon had two dozen dust bunnies to go with our two dogs and two cats. Continue reading Dirty Baby, Healthy Baby (#270)

Autumn on the Edge (#262)

Nursing moms never sleep in. Not on holidays, and not on weekends. Even if you could sleep through a crying baby, you probably can’t sleep through aching, leaking boobs. So up you get at 4:30 AM, changing the baby, feeding the baby, and then maybe entertaining the baby if baby is suddenly wide awake.

After all, your poor partner works hard all week, providing for you and the child. There’s probably a stressful project at work, or maybe he had to travel. And since you’re already up, you take a last, wistful look at your comfy bed before closing the door and letting your husband sleep in.

You don’t know it, but you’ve taken the first step to divorce.

Or murder. Continue reading Autumn on the Edge (#262)

When Baby Met Dogs (#261)

We had two three-year-old rescue dogs and two old rescue cats when Baby D was born. Even though the dogs were well-trained (mostly), you never know how your pets are going to react to babies.

Well, in one case we knew. Beowoof (Woofie for short) loved everyone and everything. Especially kids and puppies. The greatest day of Woofie’s life was the day he escaped and went to Science class at the local middle school.  Half the kids were on their desks, shrieking, but, as usual, Woofie was convinced everyone loved him.

Woofie had been waiting for his own boy forever. He was gonna be thrilled…as soon as the kid was big enough to play.

I expected Bat Cat and Commando Cat to be utterly indifferent until Baby D was old enough to terrorize them.

Fey (orange) and Woofie (dark brown).

My biggest worry was Fey. Continue reading When Baby Met Dogs (#261)

Showers (#250)

Ah, the baby shower.

Traditionally, these all-women events involved opening boxes of baby clothes and cooing over them. Many showers had guessing games. I’ve played everything from “What chocolate bar has been melted in this diaper?” to “Is this white powder baking soda, cornstarch, or flour?” 

Since I’m a chocoholic, an amateur baker, and competitive as fuck, I won all the traditional baby showers (even when the hostess tried to trick me by throwing in cream of tartar). Continue reading Showers (#250)

To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

I’ve never been fragile. Born into a large family of semi-feral children, I learned to guard my food and my stuffed animals early. I mowed lawns, lifted weights, and fought dirty with siblings when necessary (also when unnecessary).

Sympathy and coddling were in short supply. Like most young women, I powered through feeling like crap when I had cramps, headaches, and nausea.

The “I can endure misery” mindset was helpful when I was pregnant. I continued working out and playing volleyball, since the endorphins helped me not puke all the time. I still walked my rescue dogs for miles. My only concession to pregnancy was lighter weights and no squats.

This astounded people.

Continue reading To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

Once upon a time, my future husband gave me thoughtful, expensive presents. On one of our early dates, we rode an elephant together (before we knew better, sorry, wildlife defenders everywhere). Elephants had been my favorite animal as a child, in part because “elephants never forget.” Not being forgotten is the childhood fantasy of every middle child in an enormous family who has been left at school, ballet, or the Trailways bus station.

Andy didn’t forget why I loved elephants or our date. Andy got me a gold and emerald elephant pendant for Christmas that year.

Andy learned I liked old-fashioned, unique jewelry. He found an Edwardian ring design and worked with a jeweler to have it modified and cast in platinum for an engagement ring. 

I said yes. Eventually

Continue reading Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245