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)

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)

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)

New Year’s & All That Noise (#243)

A few years ago, a thirty-something couple moved into the house behind us. They had two girls under age five and another baby on the way. When the mom told me that her husband once danced and sang on a table, I assumed she was indulging in nostalgia rather than foreshadowing.

Until festive lights went up in the backyard. This was followed by a disco ball, loud music, and the chanting of “Drink, drink, drink!”

Another neighbor called and asked where the frat party was.

“At the newborn’s house,” I replied.

Continue reading New Year’s & All That Noise (#243)

Something Is Under the House (#236)

I thought I’d made peace with the freaky-assed crawl space below our house in Los Angeles. It’s not a nice, solid basement, but makes sense to have easy access to plumbing and the electrical lines for our drip system. And after multiple years, the only scary thing lurking under our house had turned out to be our own mischievous dog.

Until recently. Continue reading Something Is Under the House (#236)

A Night Schooling #(228)

When my husband and I decided to live near a school, we expected kids and traffic. We definitely got kids and traffic, twice a day for about a half-hour.

We also got a huge, empty field that our big dogs could cavort on at 6 AM on the weekends. The school was almost never locked, and no one else was up at that hour. I brought a chucker. The dogs had a blast chasing the ball, each other, and birds.

But there’s a problem with an unlocked school. Continue reading A Night Schooling #(228)

Problem Pet Owners (#213)

Some people shouldn’t have pets. Take my family. I had anywhere from 3-7 siblings when I was growing up. There’s no way a parent will notice a listless cat needs a vet visit when they don’t even know that child #2 has a chipped ankle because they’re busy bandaging the road rash of child #4, dragged an entire block by the dog they never had the time to train. Eventually, the ill-trained dog will be sent to the local doggie death center. The children will cry. The dog will be replaced by a bunny. Raccoons will eat the rabbit because it was left outside.

Welcome to the circle of life, suburban edition. Continue reading Problem Pet Owners (#213)