Ninja moves

When my husband and I moved to Japan a few years ago, our friends joked that we were going there for ninja training.

Not true (at least that YOU know of …), but now that we're back in the U.S. and far from a dojo, I think our training has begun. And a toddler is our sensei.

When Nora is napping, I suddenly gain the ability to do all sorts of things around the house in stealth mode. I can take out the trash without banging the lid down. I can listen to the radio with the volume cranked to, well, 1, and still manage to hear it. I can yell at the dog under my breath, but somehow at a frequency he can hear all the way across the backyard when I'm trying to get him to stop barking at squirrels and come inside already.

The stakes are even higher after she goes to bed for the night. The TV, if it's on, is barely murmuring, and any musical instrument practice my husband or I want to get in is done facing a far wall in our bedroom -- the farthest room from our daughter's.

And then, hours after her bedtime, it's time for ours, and that's when the true battle begins. When we're ready to call it a night, we sneak to her room, turn off the light (which is already low thanks to a friend's excellent advice for us to install a dimmer before she was born), and ease the door shut ever so quietly.

Lately, this process has become fraught. I can hear my heart pounding as I pause outside her slightly ajar door. Taking my time, I push the door open just enough to squeeze my head in, so I can look at her one last time before morning (yeah, I still do that). If I survive that process, I slide a hand along the wall -- silently! -- to the light switch, which I move to off with a tiny click that sounds, to me, like an explosion. If that doesn't wake her, the last step is shutting the door, wincing at the swish it makes across the carpet and bracing the doorknob so it doesn't click when I pull it shut.

If I'm lucky, Nora doesn't stir, and I can walk back down the hall like a normal human being, congratulating myself on a job well done. But every now and then, something goes wrong -- the light switch clicks too loudly, or I simply catch her in a wakeful moment -- and she sits straight up in bed and stares at me. Busted. Then it's several minutes of talking and soothing until she settles back down, then waiting, then starting the process all over again.

Many an attempted early bedtime (for me!) has become a late night because of a light-sleeping kiddo. Thank goodness I learned in ninja school that sleep is for the weak. I've said too much ...