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Margaret Dilloway, American Housewife

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Angry Daddy Tells the World How to Eat Cookies and Milk

Because you’re doing it wrong.

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A Leak and a Flood and a Runaway Dog

Sometimes I don’t want to put anything on Facebook, because I want to use it on my blog. And then I think, wait, should I not put this on my blog, in case I need to use it in a story?

If I put a photo on Instagram, should it not go on Tumblr?

What if I need to tell this story in a book? And then you buy the book and you’re like WTF I READ THIS ON HER STUPID BLOG, stupid waste of money.

Today, in the Bougainvillea chainsaw massacre aftermath, (it’s still in the front yard, but tomorrow Cadillac’s borrowing his dad’s trailer and going to the dump), we were working on the pool. This required the filter to be disassembled and rinsed a few times. The pool filtration system needs to be rebuilt. I know this house had some plumbing issues in the past, mostly from neglect. My FIL came over with his heavy duty drain snake and snaked all the drains. A leaky shower that pooled water in the downstairs bathroom ceiling got fixed. The pool filter plumbing looks like a bored drunken toddler threw it together with Tinkertoys. There’s a kinked hose. Glue everywhere. Leaky joints.

Anyway, we messed with the pool for a long time until it was working. I had my eyes dilated today, and Cadillac came to pick me up, so we left his car in the store lot and we had to go get it. I was near the front door when I heard a gushing sound.

I opened the front door and saw a freaking river whooshing out of this plastic box that covers valves and I yelled, “Cadillac, come here quick!” and I turned off the water shut-off.

And Cadillac came out and looked at the river of mud and bougainvillea sticks and just plain water and said, “Hmph. I could have finished putting on my other shoe,” like this wasn’t a bona fide emergency and he was gravely disappointed because there was no blood. Then he sat down to put on his other shoe.

Then Gatsby ran out the front door, FREE AT LAST, and Boy chased him, which made Gatsby laugh and run away. And the more we tried to get him the more he thought it was a grand game and of course he loved the FREEDOM! I thought he’d run off and someone would find him and keep him despite the brand new GATSBY DILLOWAY tag I bought him just today, in fancy Gatsby lettering.

He ran into a neighbor’s yard and the neighbor’s dog went crazy, and then the neighbor opened his door and let his dog out. The other dog is older and wiser and wasn’t having any of his shit biting at her face, so she schooled him by pinning his neck like a mama dog, which he needs, and they ran in circles around each other for a few minutes and I thought that maybe Gatsby just went over to have a play date.

Then the neighbor’s tiny newly walking daughter toddled out and I had no control over my mouthy dog and he ran over to her, and I was like “NOOOO” because I thought he’d mouth her and at least scratch up her tender skin and knock her over. Meanwhile, the other dog ran back into their house.

Gatsby just sniffed her gently and then ran into the house, too. And I was like, Um, do I run in after him? My shoes are covered in mud. Shit shit shit and then the dog came running out again, and I pretty much tackled Gatsby on their front lawn.

When I got back to our house (only 2 houses away) Cadillac had a pick and was digging a trench for the water. He pointed to the valves that had leaked. They were covered in a green plastic housing that was in no way shape or form permanent. Cadillac said the valve was just loose and open. We’ve never touched it. Why did it suddenly gush water? What causes such a thing to happen? It took 8 turns to tighten the valve.

See how much I don’t share on my blog?

Angry Daddy vs the Bougainvillea

There is…was…a bougainvillea growing in the front, over an overhang. Two building inspectors said it should come down. Cadillac got a chainsaw and went to work today.

Me: Maybe we shouldn’t cut the whole thing down today…after all, we have only one trashcan.

Cadillac: I’m not. I’m just going to get this one part down.

Wanna see the one part he “got down”?

This is now the view out the front window. That used to be up on the trellis.

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Totally under control!

Great Gatsby the Goldendoodle

A week and a half ago we became the honorary owners of Gatsby the Goldendoodle. Golden retriever, poodle.

This is him after our hike and after he plunged into the black algae very low San Diego River. He has two speeds: Off, or HYPER!

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He’s 8 months old. His previous owner had an illness and couldn’t care for him, and he was on Craigslist and the lady who was taking care of him in the interim decided we’d be a good match. YAY! He’s very puppy-ish but learning so fast. He knew SIT but that’s it. But, I didn’t watch every season of The Dog Whisperer for nothing!! He knows (well, not 100% of the time but a lot of the time), “Off,” “Lie down,” “Back up,” “drop,” and “Shake.” If you give him chicken tidbits, he will learn!

He LOVES being with his humans. Everything we do is fascinating. Tape measure? Fascinating. Swiffering the floors? Fascinating. Blowing your nose? Fascinating. Maybe we should have named him Spock! He wonders why he has four legs while we have two, and why, when he tries to talk, only a bark comes out. So he tries his best to talk to us.  Today after our hike, we went through the Starbucks drive-thru and Gatsby got on my lap and tried to tell the voice box his order.

He thinks the younger two kids are just overly large puppies he’s supposed to play with, so they have to act more alpha and tell him not to be so mouthy, which actually teaches the kids some assertiveness. He barked a lot in the very early mornings at first, b but he’s more used to our schedule now. He didn’t bark at all this morning after Cadillac left for work at 6 am.

These are the boys after a hard day of playing. Gatsby’s favorite backyard game is to have Cadillac pretend to chase him. Then he runs at full speed in figure-8s around the yard, leaping over the Jacuzzi, around a bush and over a cooler. I think he has a career in agility ahead of him.

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So far Gatsby’s gone on five hikes and rides in the car well. He’s played with several neighbor dogs, which scared him at first, but he got into it. He also went over to my in-law’s house all day over several days while I was in NYC. He behaved IMPECCABLY. Nobody wants to mess with Grandma!

The cat’s has had an interesting reaction. The dog, of course, believes the cat is his long lost best friend who eats way more delicious food than the dog gets, which produces even more delectable treats the dog will dig out of the litterbox if he has given a nanosecond. The cat is not so sure about this floppy too-happy creature. Yet, if the dog actually ignores the cat, the cat meows loudly until the dog pays attention, so the dog says, “HEY, KITTEH! KITTEH! LET’S PLAY!”  at which point the cat will growl. I mean, if you don’t want the dog to bother you, WHY YOU MEOWING, KITTEH? Also, before, the cat rarely slept inside. But now he gets up on my son’s high bed and sleeps there so he has an advantage over the dog, who can’t get up there. I’m pretty sure he’s laughing and, like, flipping the dog off in animal language. Now, if we  humans MEOW, the dog immediately starts looking for the cat. 

Little Girl’s been getting allergy shots for nearly a year and is at her maximum dose, which means she’s at maintenance level. She was allergic to everything that had a pulse or grew leaves, basically, but she’s so much better that her allergist wants to try her off all meds and “cautiously” calls this a cure (no jinx, knock on wood).  Goldendoodles are supposed to be good for folks with allergies, if they inherit the more poodle- like hair and don’t shed as much; but our allergist says that dog allergies are individual, unlike other allergies. So you might be allergic to one specific dog and not another, regardless of breed.

Anyway, we’re all really happy we can have a doggie now. I’m happy that I can have a companion while the kids are gone and a hiking buddy and a watchdog. Now I’m not ever really alone!

Let Us Never Speak of This Again: A Kind of Gross After Effect of Childbirth Nobody Really Talks About

When you have a kid, everybody warns you about certain physical changes that may occur. Droopy boobs. Stretch marks. Peeing when you cough or sneeze or laugh too hard. (Actually, they should make this part of high school sex ed. Show them photos of actual post-partum bellies and feet and veins, the way they show what happens to your lungs if you smoke. Call it “Appalled into Abstinence.” Do they do that? I don’t know, I wasn’t allowed in sex ed, and my kid hasn’t been through it yet).

But nobody really talked about certain other things. The fact that your hair can go permanently curly, or straight. You can get allergies, or lose them. Hormones are whack.

And nobody really talked much about hemorrhoids.

If you don’t want to know about this, close your browser window and never return. You’re about to get slapped in the face. With knowledge!

Basically, when you push out a baby, sometimes you also become the new proud owner of these little veins that, I guess, are supposed to be somehow lining the interior of your rectum, but fall out because of the intense pressure of pushing out a 99th percentile-headed child.  And these things can worsen with age, more babies, and too much Chipotle (South Park! Did you see that episode?). Let me tell you, it goes without saying that I am never going to go the way of Backdoor Teen Mom Farrah, not that I was going to ever (yeah, I wouldn’t Google that if I were you and you haven’t heard of that yet. Some things you can’t unsee).

Anyway, these things were always hanging around and vaguely irritating me.  That is, of annoying conditions, they were far down on my list, so I ignored them for years. However, I am a writer. I don’t know if this is apparent, but most of my time is necessarily spent sitting on my derriere. And I complained about them a fair amount. “Just go get them cut off!” Cadillac advised after about, I don’t know, nearly fourteen years of hearing me whine. He just wanted me to stop talking about it, really.

So finally, I did what the commercials say: I asked my doctor about them. Now, my doctor is a pretty unflappable guy. I think I’m his youngest patient. Most are elderly, ancient, and every time I go in, somebody calls about someone’s pacemaker stopping, or somebody’s having an irregular heartbeat, or somebody’s shouting at the nurse because they don’t have the kind of candy they like. And the doctor just goes around calming everyone down and calling ambulances and stuff like that.

To give you an example of who he deals with, once not long ago I was in his waiting room between two old people who were having an ailment contest. “I sprained my wrist!” the woman said, holding aloft her scratched up hand. “I fell into the roses.”

“That’s nothing. I fell into a ditch,” the man said, holding up his mangled, bruised leg.

“God. The hardest part of getting old is getting old,” the woman said.

“Don’t I know it. You’ll know it too one day, young lady,” the old man said.

“I sure hope so,” I said.

Anyway, I thought my doctor might tell me they were No Big Deal, like he had for a lot of other things I’d worried about; because in the Great Realm of Ailments, they weren’t as bad as a stopped heart or a bad liver; but instead when he drew aside the paper blanket, he drew in his breath. Like there was a monster growing down there. He tsked gravely. “Yes, these are quite bad,” he said in a mournful way. “You shouldn’t have to suffer.”

I clutched my heart. They were way worse than I’d thought! I whipped out my phone and texted Cadillac as dramatically as I could. They’re sending me straight to surgery!

The doc tried to send me to the proctologist, but the insurance wanted me to go see the general surgeon instead.

I went happily enough for my consult not immediately, but a few weeks later. Just a consult, I said to myself. No big deal. I will drive home after this and make dinner. The nurse told me to put on a paper gown and lie on my side. I kept hold of my phone, surfing Twitter while I waited.

I was actually feeling pretty happy. My mother-in-law had picked up the younger kids. My older kid was on her way to a game with Cadillac. This surgery trip was a break! Maybe I’ll stop at Target after this, I mused. Oh, yeah. I loved a good solo trip to Target. I waited impatiently for the doctor.

The general surgeon knocked and sprang into the exam room like one of those small deer that live in the rocky mountains. He was a Chinese man with a slight accent. Chipper, I tell you, as I lay on my side in that paper robe.  “Hello, Mrs. Dilloway, how are you?” he sang out.

“Great,” I said, clutching the back of my paper robe closed. Because, you know, you’re always great when you go see the doctor. Well, I was kind of great at the moment. Target was waiting.

He asked why I was there, and I told him. His face took on a mask of seriousness as he considered my problem.  “I’m just going to take a look now.” He snapped on his gloves. “Stay where you are. I’ll be quick.”

“Okay,” I said.

He put the spotlight on me and held out his hand to the nurse. She plopped a great glob of gel onto his fingers. Oh. That kind of look.

I held my breath as he fished around. Thank God his fingers are small, I thought.

“Hmmm,” he said. “I would call these very minor. You don’t really have to do anything about them.”

“Oh,” I said, feeling oddly disappointed.  I kind of wanted them out now. Was he not going to do it? “But, my general doctor said they were kind of bad.”

He hesitated. I could see the wheels spinning. Surgeons like to cut, don’t they? I was here, wasn’t I?  “But, you know,  if they bother you, we can get rid of them. My wife has those too. I feel sorry for her!” I wondered why his wife hadn’t had them taken care of– shoemaker’s wives and all that. If my husband was a doctor, he wouldn’t be able to work because I’d be asking him to fix me up all the time.

He went on to tell me the treatment options. One, he could rubber band the things, which cuts off blood supply so theoretically they disappear. Or, I could go to the hospital, get put under, and have them cut off, which would require a two week recovery or so. Or…I forget what the other option was. Each one could be successful, or not. Nothing was sounding that appealing. Especially not the surgery.

“In fact,” he said cheerfully, “we could do the rubber band procedure RIGHT NOW.”

What? I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t even Googled all the procedures he mentioned. I hadn’t read the reviews! How could I do something like that unless I read the reviews first? I didn’t even have time to complain to Cadillac! I needed support. “But I came alone,” I said. “Can I drive after?”

“Sure,” he said. “No problem.”

No problem. “Will it hurt?” I said suspiciously.

“No,” he said. Then he paused and amended himself. “Well, maybe a little. Most people don’t feel any pain.”

I should be old enough to know that when a surgeon says it’s not going to hurt, it means…it’s going to fucking hurt. At least, it is going to hurt me.

But I didn’t really want to go into the hospital and get general anesthesia. I didn’t want to sit on a donut for two weeks, bleeding bright red out of my rectum. Stiches, everything. Ouch.

I wished I’d never complained about them.

I wished I’d just gone to Target.

I inhaled, weighing my options. Do it now, here, and get it done; or extend this misery some more? “Okay,” I said at last.

“Good,” he said, and nodded at the nurse. She whipped open a drawer and started banging out surgical implements like they were just WAITING for me to come in. Just all sterilized and ready to go! Like he did this every single hour. She pulled out more and more tools, setting them on a shiny stainless table. Sharp objects. Things I’d never seen before. Things that looked like medieval torture devices.

I stopped looking at the tools. “You’re going to do it in here? Right now?” It looked like a regular exam room.

“Sure,” he said, still hella cheerful.

He told me to lie on my belly and pressed some button on the table. Suddenly, my hips went up and up and up and my face slid toward the floor.  I could feel my face turning red as the blood rushed to it. I wondered if they sold these tables in specialty stores, too, maybe the kind where Teen Mom Farrah shopped.

I thought nothing naked or having to do with butts could faze me, not after three kids. But with my rear high in the air, I felt exposed. I was suddenly possessed by the very real fear that I was about to pass some gas. Well, Cadillac would find that an amusing story, at least. it would be like something out of a Monty Python movie. But nothing happened.

He got out a shiny metal speculum-thing. It actually looked more like a large apple corer with rounded edges. I turned my head away, wondering what would happen if, say, things got messy. I really wished I hadn’t seen all the instruments spread out on the steel tray table. “Now, you just relax,” he said.

Dammit. I clutched my phone in my hands.  I briefly considered live Tweeting this.  I could tell the surgeon to say cheese, take a picture over my shoulder of his overly cheerful face. Better yet, I could video it, put it on YouTube. Maybe it would go viral! Maybe I would be on the Today Show. Who gives a shit about your books, let’s talk about your hemorrhoid operation! 

I held up my phone. “Okay if I hold this?”

“Sure,” the doctor said.

I lost my Twitter courage. Maybe the world wasn’t ready for this kind of live Tweet. Yes, we’ve seen people lose their lives, but this hemorroid thing was going to make them lose their freaking minds. I opened up Candy Crush instead. There was a level I’d been stuck on for two weeks. This could be the time. “Okay. I’ll just be beating this level here while you’re doing that.”

They laughed.

“Here we go,” the doctor said. “Relax.” Again with the relax. I fought the urge to turn my head to see what he was doing.

I felt pressure. I did not like it. I slithered forward a little.

“Stay still!” the doctor said.

I focused on the game. Candy Crush, Candy Crush, Candy Crush.  Line them up, win. Line them up. Suddenly, I won the level. “I won!” I crowed.

“Good job,” the surgeon said.

But then there was more pressure. Twisting.  A lot of it.  Tears came into my eyes. “Ow,” I said. The room spun. My heart pounded in my ears. Can’t you pass out from having your head down for so long? “Ow, ow, ow.”

“It shouldn’t hurt,” he said. “It really shouldn’t.”

Yes, you saying that will REALLY MAKE IT NOT HURT.  It took everything I had not to run away. My vision went black around the edges. I probably said more, choicer words. I don’t remember.

It was like the time on our honeymoon when we went to a waterpark. We went down one of those super tall, super long enclosed slides. Turns out I’m claustrophobic. “GAME OVER!” I screamed. “I DON’T WANT TO PLAY ANYMORE! THIS ISN’T HAPPENING!” I’m surprised my husband could hear me over his laughter. Anyway, I couldn’t remember saying anything, only yelling.

I couldn’t even work the Candy Crush things on my phone. You know it’s bad then.

“Almost done with the first.” I heard a rubber band snap. “You want to sit up for a minute before we continue?”

HE WASN’T EVEN DONE!!  My stomach, pressured from the table, lurched. I got that hot feeling you get right before you hurl. “Um. I’m going to barf. I think,” I said. My voice an echo from far away. They lowered the table to flat.

The nurse handed me the vomit tray (why did she have it so close? Very suspicious. Like this was a possibility. I thought this didn’t hurt!).

“The pain should not be so bad,” the surgeon said again. “It’s in your head.”

I lay down on the table and curled into a ball, willing the room to be still. I took a breath.  “I gave birth to a baby without meds,” I said. “This is worse.” It was true. At least when you’re having a baby, you’ve got a simple task with a reward at the end. Your body knows what to do and you’re helping it. It’s not having stuff done TO it.

“It’s all mental,” the doctor said most helpfully. “Yes, I think it’s just a mental block.  You’ll be better. You want to try another?”

What an optimist this guy was. So I’m mentally tough enough to give birth to a baby without meds, but not to get this TOTALLY NOT PAINFUL EASY-PEASY procedure? Harrumph. “No thank you,” I said.

“Well. That’s okay, too. If you ever change your mind, you can come back. Or go to the hospital. Yes, I think hospital might be better for you.” He patted my leg and left.

You think?

The nurse brought me some water. “Do you want me to call somebody to pick you up?”

I shook my head. “Well, maybe. I’ll call him.”

“Okay. Take as much time as you need.” She smiled at me. I liked the nurse.

I waited until she left the room, then called Cadillac. Immediately I began blubbering.

“What happened?” he asked. “What did they do to you?”

I blew my nose.”THEY TRIED TO KILL ME!” I told him everything.

But he was taking our kid to a game. “Well, I could come, but we’re almost at the game. So I’ll have to come all the way back there. Do you need me to come?” he said, clearly implying SUCK IT UP. “What’ll we do with your car?”

“I don’t know.” I sniffled, feeling sorry for myself. “I’ll just drive home myself.  I’ll probably crash. I almost passed out. If I DIE on the way home, tell the kids I love them.”

He sighed. “No, I’ll come get you, even though we’re almost at the game.”

Now, later he clarified that he meant he was TOTALLY willing to come get me, but he was almost at the game, so he might as well drop off the girl first; and the car thing was merely him wondering aloud what we would do. But it sounded like he was telling me to Suck It Up and I stand by my version.

By this time, I’d finished my cold cup of water and was sitting upright and really was feeling somewhat better. I didn’t want my daughter to miss the game. Motherly guilt. “No. No. I’ll make it. I’ll  take surface roads.” I blew my nose again. “I have chicken defrosting. I’ll make baked potatoes, too. Don’t worry about it.” Now I was being a martyr on purpose, but I couldn’t help it. 

“Are you sure? Because I’ll come get you right now.” Now he sounded somewhat concerned. Which is REALLY ALL I WANTED.

I blew my nose again. Was this really all in my head? But I’m tough. The baby! The no meds! I’m like steel. “I’ll be fine. Really.”

“Call if you need me,” he said. “I’ll get you.”

Like if I had an unexpected procedure with unexpected results? Double harrumph! “Okay.”

I waited a while longer, then got dressed. I walked shakily to the restroom. Going to the bathroom also hurt. Another thing nobody mentioned.  “Do you need a ride home?” the nurse asked me again.

“No, I’m fine.” I was set on being stubborn now. I walked back to my room. I drank more water and gave myself a good pep talk. I will go slow. I will take surface streets. If I need to, I can just pull over. No problemo.

I walked down the stairs of the office building. If I fell here, then I’d get a ride. I made it. Easy-peasy.

I drove slowly home. “All in my head,” I whispered to myself, my stomach contracting.  I got into bed. “All in my head,” I said, as my stomach evacuated itself (another side effect not mentioned– I Googled it).

I stayed in bed until the next day. Cadillac came home and made me soup.

I went in for my follow-up two weeks later.

The nurse, a different one, took me into the Room of Shame. “So, what did you have done?” she asked.

I told her. “But it hurt, so I couldn’t finish.”

“I should think it hurt!” She widened her eyes. “Wow. I can’t believe they’d do that here!”

Finally. Sympathy.

“I know!” I said. “Right?”

“I don’t blame you a bit,” she said.

I almost hugged her.

Anyway, I hope these kids appreciate all we mothers go through for them. Really. Maybe they’ll put this essay in a sex ed textbook one day.  I can only hope.

Spark Anthology Arrives

I have a short story in the new Spark anthology. I mentioned it before. My friend Brian Lewis, who was at the CalArts summer school with me, founded the journal this year, as a way to showcase CSSSA grads (and others). It officially comes out tomorrow, but you can get an e-copy or preorder right now. It’s a great way to support emerging writers and enjoy some short stories, art, and poetry while you’re at it.

I got the idea for the story a few years ago. I was attending the Honolulu Writers Conference, walking back from lunch, when I saw a young man sitting against the wall of a very high-end store,on Honolulu’s version of Rodeo Drive. He was reading Steinbeck, I think, and he had a box for donations and a very intense, almost angry look on his face.

He looked just like Cadillac when he was 18.

For a second, I felt like I’d gone through a time warp and almost said my husband’s name. But I knew it wasn’t him. Not really.

Then I thought, what if Cadillac and I hadn’t gotten married, and I saw this guy who was his spitting image from 20+ years back?

What would you do?

So…hope that piques your interest.

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The Honey Badger of Breastfeeding

I am long past my breastfeeding days, but a couple of my close friends are pregnant, and it’s been in the news with the (non-case) of the breastfeeding professor, so I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Admittedly, most of my early-parent time is a haze– friends ask me how I potty trained or got the kids to sleep through the night, and I seem to have blocked a lot of it out, like you do with childbirth– but I do remember breastfeeding vividly.

The story reported is about a professor whose baby had a fever on the first day of class, so she brought the baby with her to breastfeed, and some people freaked the f out. The only thing that bothers me about the story is that she was forced to bring a sick baby to school– the baby probably would have been better off sleeping quietly at home. But I totally understand that she couldn’t miss the first day of class, and the easiest way to get the baby to be quiet and comfort her was to breastfeed her.

I gave birth to my oldest at the hospital in Fort Lewis, Washington. As a lower enlisted wife, I’d heard many horror stories about mean nurses and lack of flexibility and them just yelling at new parents. I was afraid to give birth there. My solution to this was to do a big story for the weekly I worked for about the hospital. This way, I figured, I’d a) be known to the staff and b) get to know the facility intimately. The Fort Lewis Ranger printed a photo of my preggers belly on its cover, and I interviewed a bunch of people who worked at the hospital or had given birth there.

My own OB/GYN was nothing but encouraging, a movie-star handsome second-generation baby deliverer. He promised to let me have as much control as possible.

But after I gave birth, he had to relinquish control of me to the floor nurses, who did indeed live up to every fabled horror story I’d heard.

My milk did not come in right away– it usually does not– and they insisted on feeding my baby a bottle, telling me she was hungry and I was depriving her. Being a new mother, and exhausted (I was induced), and wanting what was best, and already worn down from them yelling at me for requesting stuff (like an extra blanket because I’m so, like, demanding), I said okay.

The results were two: my baby projectile-vomited a lot, her tummy being too full– and it took me a full 10 days for my milk to come in. 10 days of trying. That’s kind of a long time.

I never fed her from the bottle again.

After that hard-won breastfeeding, I took her everywhere with me.  I became uber-earth mother, the honey badger of breastfeeding.  Not that I did consciously– I just wanted to feed my child. Breastfeeding isn’t all rainbows and unicorns– it never made me lose weight like they said it would (in fact, I kept it on while breastfeeding), it was tiring, it was sometimes annoying (hello, teeth!)– but it is cheap, efficient, bonding, and good for the kid. You have to do what works best for you.

I once took her to a brunch where she started fussing while I was eating. I was starving, and I wanted her to be quiet, so I fed her at the table while I was eating. Honey badger don’t care– she feeds her child wherever she wants.

honey badger don't care!
honey badger don’t care! (Photo credit: Tom Simpson

I fed her everywhere.  Sometimes I covered up, but often I did not, because covers make the baby and mom sweaty and you can’t really see if she’s latching properly. And really, my kid’s head was so big (like the 99th precentile) that it just looked like I was holding her. You couldn’t see anything except shirt and baby head.

The funny thing is, 13+ years ago, nobody seemed to give a damn. Nobody ever said a word to me, except after the brunch, when a woman took me aside and congratulated me for being brave (my reaction: huh? I’m just feeding my kid. No biggie.) If anybody stared, I just sent them a patented angry look (I missed my calling as a middle school teacher; I have an excellent angry stare). Honey badger don’t care– You give her a funny look? Honey badger flips you off with her free hand, burps her kid with her other.

So why are people bugging out now, when mostly nobody did more than a decade ago?

Back when my MIL gave birth to her first, in the early ’60s, nobody breastfed. While she was out, the docs tried to give her meds to dry up her milk– her husband had to stop them.

Are we going back to that era, then?

I asked Cadillac for his take on this, to get a male POV. He said, “That’s what breasts are for– to feed babies. If people want to go back in time and change human development so that’s not their purpose, then they should. Otherwise, they should leave mothers alone.”

The bottom line is simple. The only way people will stop making a big deal out about it is if mothers tell all the big-deal makers to bug off.

I’m not going to stop wearing sandals because some perv might have a foot fetish, and finds feet incredibly stimulating. And if somebody came up to you and said, “Your feet are indecent. Please put socks on,” would you not tell that person to go to hell? If you freak out about breastfeeding, it’s not the mother’s fault, it’s yours. We are supposed to be higher beings, not just plain animals.

Once– it must have been with my youngest– I was feeding her at the mall, and a kid ran up and took a picture. My husband yelled at him, but decided it would not end well if he accosted a little kid. The kid was probably reacting as he’d been taught to react– as though breastfeeding is something secret and dirty and sexual, when it’s not.  And nobody can control how somebody else reacts– like with the feet. I’m not going to cover up myself head to toe, because somebody somewhere might be excited by a benign piece of skin.

So my advice to breastfeeding mothers is this: refuse to feed your baby in filthy bathroom stalls and uncomfortable positions. Feed your child wherever it’s comfortable. If somebody says something to you, pay no mind. I’ll stick up for you.

Car Sickness and Flat Tires: Family Vacation, National Lampoon-Style

After our sojourn to CalArts, we decided to go up to the Sequoias to see the big trees. We stayed the first night at a Best Western outside of the park, then went inside. The plan was to camp. We made reservations at a campsite, the only campsite available. It was about 20 miles away from the entrance we used, but we figured we could see some things one day, go up to our camp, and it wouldn’t be a big deal.

It was hot. I mean it was 103. My appendages swelled up immediately and I immediately had to join the queue for the ladies room inside the park. It was packed, of course. Tons of Europeans. I haven’t seen so many Europeans since I was actually in Europe. Not that I’m complaining, just an observation.

First we saw some really big trees.

And an interesting bug, which was about the size of a stag horned beetle. I asked Cadillac, “Does that have wings?”

“No, its antennae are too long to fly,” he said. Of course it then flew up and Son started screaming (glee) and a lady screamed and ran away (terror).

Camera wouldn’t completely focus on it and then it flew.

We decided to go to Crystal Caves, for which you need to buy a ticket on site. The first available was 4:30 that day. We were faced with a dilemma. The cave tour would last until 6:30 or so. It would take about 3 hours to get to the campground, according to the ranger. So we realistically wouldn’t be able to make camp until 10 that night, or skip going to Crystal Cave. We chose to go to Crystal Cave.

The hike down to the cave is a half mile. It smelled like artichokes in the canyon, and there is a big waterfall. They told us to put our food from the car into bear lockers, though I’m not sure if a bear would venture to a parking lot filled with 100 cars and even more humans in the middle of the day.

Inside the cave it was only 59 degrees, so we brought jackets. And flashlights. They had lighting, but it was still dark.

Our guide’s name was Mitch. He told us about the history of the caves and which rank it was on the long cave list. Son of course asked, “What’s the longest cave?”

Then Mitch led our group of 50 inside. He explained that there are parts of the cave where nobody is allowed, because it’s a Native American burial ground. Which might explain the orbs in the Great Room (orbs=ghosts according to some).

There was an underground river and I was terrified that we’d lose one of the kids over the edge. He also told us there’s a big lake in a cavern below the tour.

We also got to experience total darkness, which unfortunately was not also total silence since 2 out of 3 of our kids did not like that one bit.

The cave formations are a form of marble. Interesting.

Mitch picked something up and Son said, “What’s that you have?” Mitch said, “I usually don’t like to show people this because then everyone will want to see…” and he looked at Son, who would not let him off the hook, and showed him an insect. He said it was a “Muirepede,” named after John Muir. It has long antennae and no eyes and hates light, so I got no picture of it.

The walk up was strenuous, especially going from 59 degrees to 100+, but we powered through.

Then it really was 6:30 and we realized the kids could not handle a 3 hour drive (neither could we). We started back down the mountain. They’re re-doing the roads, so there is a 30 minute delay on top of it going either way. I took some pics during the delay.

The road was windy, and Son said he wasn’t feeling so well. He can’t chew gum because of his orthodontia, so I offered him crackers, which he refused. We were just about to the bottom when there was a noise like water being spit out and I knew he’d lost his cookies.

“I didn’t even know that was going to happen!” he said.

“Hmmm,” Cadillac said. “He got sick on the way home from Boy Scout camp, I guess he gets carsick.”

Um, that would have been nice to know. I would have made him take Dramamine. (I said as much, but maybe not so nicely).

Anyway, that was a mess, but we cleaned up once we reached a turnoff (which was a ways off). We continued down.

Then there was another weird noise, different. Metal on asphalt.

“What’s that noise?” Eldest said.

“Look in the rearview and see if our tire’s blown,” Cadillac told me. He’d checked the tires before we left, but it was worn out on the inside where you’d have to reach your hand all the way inside to feel it. So now he knows to check that.

We pulled off near a campground and he put on a spare. Some people offered to help but Cadillac declined.

By then it was 8 and nobody had eaten and there was now absolutely no way in heck we were going camping. So we returned to the motel where we’d stayed and everybody slept in. Then the next morning, we went over to Costco in Visalia and they had our tires in stock and got us on the road in an hour. We went home.

“Every time we try to go camping, it never works,” Eldest said. This is true. But Cadillac promised to take them to a local place next month for fishing.

Best Quotes from the Trip

Our youngest had some gems I wrote down.

  • “That new tire looks famous! It’s so shiny.”
  • “He is like a dentist for tires.” About the tire guy and his tools.

At the motel, Eldest said, “Let’s look through the peephole.”

Little Girl: “What people?”

Eldest: “No, the peep. Hole. Peephole.”

LG: “I don’t see any people! What are you talking about? You’re crazy!”

I had to write it down but only after it went on for a good long while, like “Who’s on First.”

The Day the Earth Stood Still: A Man and a Craft Store

I just finished the editing/rewriting of my next book. Now it has to go to my agent, who will undoubtedly see items that slipped by me. Anyway, I worked a LOT this week to finish it, because the kids get out of school on Tuesday, and it’s really hard to work when they are at home. At least, to work in stretches.

At the beginning of the week it stood at 442 pages, and now it’s 480 pages.

It’s always surprising to me to read through a draft and find out it’s not as horrible as I thought while I was writing it. Writing the first draft really is the hardest part. This time it was triply hard because of the historical stuff, and I kept having to check things (what kind of forest would be in northern Honshu in the 12th century? What color would the dirt be, and would it be hard/loamy what? Did they have lychee? What did they use for light at night?)

Sometimes, I wasn’t feeling it, so I would just vaguely sketch out a scene I knew needed to happen: She went out with her husband and they had a fight. Or: There was a big battle at the river. When I went through it, I added more. Over the weekend, I’m going to edit some minor things I know need addressing.

Tonight, Cadillac took me out to dinner as a treat for finishing my book. (We did not have a fight, like my characters did). We decided to go to Chili’s because it was seven o’clock and there’s a Chili’s nearby, and I was starving. We got their dinner deal, but the server rang everything up ala carte so it was about $10 more than it was supposed to be, but the manager fixed it up.

Then….we were leaving and Cadillac said, “Would you like to go walk around someplace?”

“Like where?” I said.

“Like Fashion Valley (a mall). Or, we could go to Michael’s and get some craft stuff,” he said.

My head spun around.

Yes, that is correct. My husband VOLUNTEERED to take me to MICHAEL’S and buy crafts.

It was the day the earth stood still.

He is never bitter or grumpy about taking me to Michael’s. But neither has he ever just asked if I wanted to go.

Unfortunately, unless I have a specific project in mind I don’t just buy random craft stuff. That is, I don’t walk around Michael’s eyeing supplies and pulling ideas out of my ass, like, “Oooh, I could make a lamp out of pipe cleaners and beads!” I also tend to forget which supplies I already have. But I was so excited that he suggested it that I agreed anyway and we went down there. I didn’t buy anything. He looked at plastic car and airplane models that are theoretically for the kids, but they always need help so he does most of it.

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