About AJ Kiffe

I am an environmental microbiologist who gave it all up to be a stay-at-home mom. Motherhood came after a 10 year struggle with infertility. I gave up my career - or at least put it on hold - so that I may cherish the child that I have for so long waited. And now I am learning to write, cook, garden and generally re-evaluate what matter most in life. This blog is a reflection of that journey.

WAIT – Is This Thing On?

How can I write this where I don’t wind up looking like a sadist? Steve wanted me to make a blog out of it. He demanded it, actually.

Although I rarely pass up an opportunity to mess with his mind, it’s usually little stuff. Minor mind screws that don’t cut a wide swath of damage. But tonight I punked him hugely for a second time in our life together, and, for the second time, it was a doozy.

He bought Jelly Bean and me a couple of Amazon Echos for Christmas. She has the full-sized Alexa and mine is a Dot.  Then he bought me a Smart Bulb to use with my bedside lamp to be voiced-controlled by my Echo. We have an app on our tablet computers which can also run our Smart Stuff. My tablet can run both of the lamps currently hooked to the system. From anywhere in the world as long as there is Wi-Fi. Cool beans. Unless…

My Smart Bulb does not work correctly. Every day or two it needed to be rebooted and reconnected. I kept up that exercise for two solid weeks. Eventually the problem was corroborated by an email from the makers of the Smart Bulb. They’re working on a fix. So now I use my high tech lightbulb as a regular lamp. C’est la vie.

Jelly Bean was given a Smart Plug instead of a bulb, which allows her Echo to run whatever is connected to the specialty plug. Hers works great. Her fun, multi-colored, multi-shaded medusa lamp gets controlled by her Alexa.

Tonight Steve helped JB get ready for bed. Well, mostly they discussed the reality show they are addicted to watching. JB requested Alexa to turn on her light so that her dad could extinguish the overhead light. I, Beautiful Princess Amy (I make them both call me that with fair regularity), overheard their banter and the command regarding the lamp and fired up my Smart app on my tablet. I engaged the lamp in Jelly Bean’s room, turning it off.

“Hey – why did that happen?” The daughter asked her father.

Barely able to stifle a laugh, I heard them turn the light on again. Again, I turned it off.

Boop, boop….boop, boop…boop, boop… The need to wait until they tried to correct course quickly left me and soon I simply hit the button over and over. Sometimes I would wait for a few seconds to break the pattern. To keep it fresh.

After what seems like hours (and the tenor of Steve’s voice rising a couple of octaves), JB raced into my room to ask whether my Echo was working. I grinned hugely to her confusion.

“What’s wrong, Mom? Why do you look so weird?”

I simply handed her my tablet so she could see that the Smart app was up.

“Whaaa….I don’t get it. What is this?”

Saying nothing, I reached over to the tablet in her hands and said “BOOP” as I touched the button next to the name of her lamp, turning it off again. And then I burst into outrageous laughter.

It took a few seconds for the realization that the cause of the appliance malfunction did not involve a ghost (which is what I was hoping for, if only I could levitate a jar or something) or a massive failure of both systems – Alexa and Smart.  As the truth settled into her spongy brain, she yelled “MOTHER!” at me and then ran down the hall to rat me out to her father.

My recollection (of just a few hours ago) of what happened next remains foggy due to a lack of oxygen. By this time, my laughter seeped into my bones, distancing reality from my frontal lobe as the wordless shock-and-then-anger moved across Steve’s face when he realized he had just needlessly unplugged everything in JB’s room as an investigative step. My lungs wheezed from laughter-induced asthma.

I’ve been rubbing it in for hours. Some would say “baiting,” even. Because it’s happened before.

Eighteen years ago, Steve raged against having to drink skim milk. My mom raised us on skim milk and – by golly – that’s what we were going to drink. We were young. We hadn’t been married long. We drink whole milk now.

He discovered a new “fortified” milk that was considered nonfat milk, but had so-called improved aesthetics because added cotton fibers made the color less blue and the taste heartier. Supposedly.


“That sounds disgusting. Is it more expensive than regular skim milk?”

“Well, it is almost twice the price…”


“But it tastes way better than regular skim milk and it doesn’t look as gross.”

“Steven. You’re drinking COTTON. This can’t possibly be worth having to suck down a little skim milk. You only eat it on your cereal.”

“No….no….I use it for other stuff, too. If I have to drink this crap, at least let it not taste like crap.”

“You cannot tell the difference.” I folded my arms across my chest in finality.

“OF COURSE I CAN.” Whoa. Steve doesn’t yell often. I decided to let it go.

“Whatever. But I don’t believe you can actually taste a difference.”


I really didn’t believe it and wanted to prove it. The next day, I bought another half-gallon of regular skim milk, poured out his ridiculous snake-oil milk and decanted in the stuff I just purchased.

He drank that milk over the next week. I drank from my own carton because I had refused to drink his witch’s brew.


“So, what do you think of your new milk?” I asked at the end of the week. “Was it everything you thought it would be?” My innocent tone belied my evil heart.

“Oh yeah. It was great. That stuff really works.” He beamed.

“I hate to break this to you” (really didn’t hate it) “but you’ve been drinking regular milk since Monday. I poured out your stupid milk and replaced with our regular stuff.” I grinned widely at this unleashed revelation.


After a deep stare at me, he wordlessly turned and left the room.

My asthma activated right then, as well. My lungs always get verklempt when I belly laugh.

He wouldn’t talk about it for days. Eventually he would relate that he had been both miffed and in awe.

As of this writing, Steve and I are in the exact same place.

To what “little life stuff” does this relate? What is the moral?  Beats me. He made me write this and I am utterly pleased with myself.


POST SCRIPT: Steve stayed mad at me for a while. He said he nearly went into a technological rage over the malfunction. This, after he started to speak to me again. At breakfast this morning my family described how they would both lean in, staring at the lamp and hoped that their latest “fix” would work, only to have that hope dashed by another mysterious on-and-off cycle of light and dark. And then more furious troubleshooting together. It was evident that, had there been video in JB’s room, I would have literally died of the laughter. I nearly did last night. The asthma barely remained in control. My lungs still hurt this morning from it.

Good times.