What Bugs (#338)

My Chinese American husband doesn’t see dirt. At least, not in our house. He’s got a whole dirt manufacturing thing going on in our yard with multiple compost piles, but can he spot an errant leaf or Lego on the floor and pick it up? Haha, no. Not even after he’s experienced multiple late-night Lego fire walks into our son’s bedroom.

Back when we were dating, Andy would get mad about his roommate leaving crumbs on the kitchen counter.

Now that we’re married? Andy leaves crumbs on the kitchen counter.

He says he wipes down the counter.

I say, “Really? Because that ant right there is running off with a crumb from your sandwich and he’s going to share the joyful news with the rest of the colony and they’re all going to come running.”

Andy: “What ant?”

I squish the ant with a Clorox wipe and hold it in front of his face. “THIS ant. How can you not see this ant?!”

“Our kitchen counter is black! The ant is black!

Our kitchen counter, reflecting the afternoon sunlight.

“The counter is MARBLED black and white. Our cabinets are WHITE. How is it you never see these suckers and I have to kill them all?!”

Andy shrugs.

At least twice a year, usually when it’s hot and dry, the ants send scouts into our house. If we’re lucky, I spot and kill them before they find the honey in the pantry or the cat food on the dryer. If we’re not lucky, I have to clean out the entire pantry and kill ants for days. And if we’re really unlucky? They set up an entire colony under a fallen black sweatshirt in the hall closet (true story).

I don’t know if it’s the drought or the fact that the city cut down our old trees and ground up the roots, but lately the ants have been relentless. They’re attacking on multiple fronts: kitchen, dining room, living room, laundry room, and bathroom. The ones in the living room found an old potato chip in Andy’s recliner. If we were wealthy, I’d’ve burned it and replaced it. As it was, I had to take the chair apart, vacuum it, and wipe it down. Repeatedly.

The kitchen ants are the worst, though. I’ve spent the last few weeks fending them off. I sweep, vacuum, and clean counters, trying to make sure there are no enticing food bits.

Undoubtedly, some readers are wondering why the hell we don’t try poison.

First, I’m not a fan of any poison in any biome. Second, we have pets that can get into every nook and cranny and cabinet in the house as well as under the house. Some of these pets think everything is edible. Others think everything is a toy.

So I remind Andy to look for ants in the morning when he gets up before I do. He says, “Sure.”

It’s Monday at 5 AM.  Andy’s in the bathroom when I turn on the kitchen’s overhead lights. I see ants on the counter next to his half-full coffee mug. I kill the ants, then open drawers and cabinets to see where they are coming from. I discover a line of ants under the kitchen sink. I kill more ants, grumbling to the dog about certain blind persons in the house.

That night, I tell Andy that maybe, just maybe, light would help him see ants when it’s dark. I refrain from telling him I’m convinced he’s deliberately not turning on the lights in order to not see the ants because he doesn’t want to have to deal with ants. I remind myself that even before the recent invasion, Andy preferred to blunder about in the dark and the cold rather than pay any utility company more money.

The next morning, Andy’s up first. He leaves me a cup of coffee on the counter. By the dim nightlight on the stove hood, I see an ant crawling around next to my mug. It’s just one of many I have to kill, including some making a concerted foray into the pantry.

Ant scout in the pantry.

Andy is still in the bathroom when I leave with the dog. Fuming.

I fume all day. I kill straggler and scout ants all day. That night, I update Andy on the ant carnage tally, including the one right next to the cup of coffee he poured for me mere minutes before I entered the kitchen.

He argues, “But I looked! I didn’t see any ants!”

“I don’t know how you could have missed them, unless you weren’t really looking.”

Andy is offended. Then adamant. “I did a good job! I was looking!”

“Did you turn on the lights?!”

“I used a flashlight!”

“You—a flash—I just—” I throw up my hands and leave the room.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Or turn on a light.

Wings & Sweet Things (#325)

My neighborhood holds an annual cooking contest the Sunday before Labor Day.

The stakes? Bragging rights and cheese knives.

The contestants? Everyone on the block.

The outcome? My Chinese American husband dominated for years. Then I started entering chocolate baked goods and crushed him. The hostess finally created two categories, one for “Savory” and one for “Sweet.” Andy vengefully jumped categories and destroyed me with caramel pear ice-cream.

Two years ago, we tied. Last year, the contest was canceled because of COVID.

Two weeks ago, this showed up in my mailbox:

Continue reading Wings & Sweet Things (#325)

When the Drive-Thru Will Save You (#318)

I am not a fan of car culture. I believe in public transportation: trains, the subway, buses. Do not get me started on the lost and lamented Los Angeles Red Car.

But damn, cars came in handy during COVID-19. Cars were a way to maintain social distancing in drive-thru testing sites. There were Ubers and Lyfts for those who didn’t dare brave buses, even with masks. There was Instacart for those who didn’t dare brave the grocery stores. With restaurant dining off-limits, at least you could still pick up a pizza or have it delivered.

Drive-in Theaters became a thing again. Fast-food restaurants brought back carhop service. We went from Escape Rooms to Stranger Things: the Drive-Into Experience. The majority of Americans opted for road trips this Spring Break, rather than risk flying.

Aside from take out, Andy and I mostly skipped the resurgence of car culture.

Until it was our turn for vaccinations. Continue reading When the Drive-Thru Will Save You (#318)

When It Ain’t At All About the Ball (#290)

Baby D walked when he was 10 months old—for 3 steps. Then he ran everywhere.

“Soccer,” I yelled to Andy as I chased Baby D around the yard with a cheese stick. “As soon as he’s old enough, he’s playing soccer. Maybe that will wear him out.”

Andy yelled back, “But, honey, he doesn’t care about balls.”

This was true. Baby D did not care about sports.

Baby D only liked imaginary games. Continue reading When It Ain’t At All About the Ball (#290)

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)

Custard’s Last Stand (#230)

Our neighborhood holds a cooking contest over Labor Day weekend. The hostess picks a different ingredient or theme each year.

My husband Andy is an amazing cook. He won until the year of the potato. I snuck in a potato flake cake from a 50s recipe. My chocolate crushed the competition – including my husband. The following year, the hostess split the competition, creating two different categories: one for savory items, one for sweets.

Last year Andy didn’t enter a savory dish. He says it was because it was a hundred degrees and there was no way he was turning on the stove. Continue reading Custard’s Last Stand (#230)

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)

Red Flags (#226)

You know what I was excited about when Andy and I bought our house?

Putting up a flag pole. I couldn’t wait to fly seasonal house flags.

I envisioned a flag with flowers for summer, an autumn flag with falling leaves, a black cat for Halloween, and Christmas flag with a polar bear. Of course I would fly the Stars & Stripes for Independence Day. Continue reading Red Flags (#226)