December 14, 2007

The Inaugural Can't-Miss Christmas Gifts For Children (Infant Edition) …

Christmas is most kids' favorite holiday of the year. There's definitely some stiff competition—Halloween, Easter, Flag Day—but Christmas generally beats out the rest for one very important bow-covered reason: presents. Sure, kids love caroling and sitting on Santa's lap and watching Ralphie shoot his eye out over and over again on TBS. But when they go to bed on Christmas Eve, all they can dream about are Transformers, My Little Ponies and other goodies that will await them under the tree come Christmas morn.

When kids are so young, it's often hard for Santa (and friends and family and that mailman who looks suspiciously similar to your child) to know what to get them for the holiday. That's why I've come up with a list of Can't-Miss Christmas Gifts For Children Under the Age of One. (Well that's a coincidence—Ella is under one!)

So, without further ado, here are 8 gifts that'll win over your Under One Year Old, or UOYO (pronounced "you-O-yo") this holiday season:

1. Clothes. This is the only year you can get away with buying the baby clothes before she starts referring to you as "The Annoying Relative Who Keeps Buying me Clothes When What I Want is An iPod." On the bright spot, Mom and Dad will be thrilled—it's one less item they have to buy. On the not-so-bright spot, Mom and Dad will have to practice their "Oh- My- God- This- Is- Ugly- But- I'll- Have- To- Suck- It- Up- And- Pretend- I- Like- It" Smile.

2. Anything with "Baby's First Christmas" on it. See an ornament with "Baby's First Christmas" on it? Buy it! Find a bib with "Baby's First Christmas" on it? Buy it! Stumble upon a flamethrower with "Baby's First Christmas" on it? Buy it! You can never have too much to remind your child of the one and only Christmas she will have absolutely no recollection of.

3. Toby the Totbot. This gift has everything a tiny tot (and parent) looks for in a toy: It teaches letters, numbers and shapes; dances and sings at a reasonable volume; big enough so that your little angel won't choke when she chews on it (and she will); has a sweet name and will fit in with the rest of your living room family, like Steven the TV, Glenn the Remote and Rosco the Christmas Snowman.

4. Wrapping Paper and Empty Boxes. Let's be honest here, your UOYO can't tell the difference between a Louis Vuitton purse and a dog terd, so why dish out the big bucks? Boxes and wrapping paper are not only cost effective, but also can be found in your average basement.

5. Holiday Socks. It's not an official holiday unless you have special, colorful socks to celebrate it. Just ask my wife.

6. Themed Gifts. The best way to stick it to any parent is buy gifts based on a particular theme—Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Bob the Builder, Playboy Bunnies, etc. It's not that any of these themes are bad—on the contrary, most are really fun—it's just that by giving UOYOs non-parent-approved themed gifts, you pigeonhole the parents into a lifetime of Pepe LePew t-shirts, blankets, bedding, bathrobes, drapes, underwear, birthday cakes, hats, car seat covers ... well, you get the idea. And that'll teach them for not naming their firstborn after you.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

7. Cash Money. No matter how old the kid is, you can never go wrong with cash. This will allow the parents to start a college fund for that child—and by "college fund" I mean "fix what's broken in the house" fund.

8. Nintendo Wii. Trust me, Dad she wants it. Bad.

The Life of Dad is updated most Fridays (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

November 30, 2007

Food for Thought ...

When a child reaches the age of four months she'll begin to drool uncontrollably. It's true. Ella, who has recently joined this coveted age group, is producing saliva so fast that you could ride a tiny surfboard down her chin. Of course, that's pretty absurd; after all, where would you find a surfboard this time of the year?

According to medical journals, world- renowned pediatricians and, better yet, BabyCenter.com, excessive drooling is the number one sign that it's time to start introducing solid foods into her diet. Now I know what you're thinking because I was thinking it too: Finally, we can get a sack of White Castles and those last two won't go to waste! But apparently when the doctor says "solids" he actually means "mushy- rice- cereal- that- isn't- solid- at- all- and- looks- more- like- watered- down- eggnog."

Sorry, Ella. We're just as disappointed as you are.

While on the surface this task looks like fun, it's not. Feeding your child solid food for the first time is much like riding a Slip 'N Slide: It seems like a good idea as you make that long run down the yard, but the minute liquid hits your face you know that you've made a giant mistake.

So on Saturday night, we made a dinner date with Ella. We set up her Bumbo chair and plopped her on the table. Several veterans of the parenting field informed us that the first couple of tries are messy, so we prepared ourselves. We wrapped the largest bib we owned around Ella's neck, laid a giant burp cloth over her lap and hung painter's tarps on the walls and over the floor. My wife braved the situation with nothing but her usual weekend wear. I, on the other hand, made sure to put on gloves, goggles and a poncho for good measure.

Brittany took the first stab at feeding her. She dipped the tiny spoon in the tiny bowl, waved it in front of Ella's face and explained what she was going to do: "Ella, this is big girl food. I'm going to place the spoon above your tongue and let you eat." To which Ella replied, "(confused look on my face)." Then Brittany placed the spoon on our babe's tongue and, without hesitation, Ella licked the spoon clean. There was no mess. No anything. It was as if she'd been eating solids her entire (though short) life.

Ecstatic about this turn of events, I took off my goggles and gloves. For the next five minutes I watched as Ella pleasantly took down the rice cereal. It was a tender moment for our family to share. I couldn't have been any prouder of my little angel.

About halfway through the bowl, my wife turned to me and asked if I'd like to give it a try. Me? I practically shed a tear. It was like bouncing around rookie ball for years and then suddenly getting called up to The Show. I promised myself I wouldn't let her down.

I took the bowl and buried the spoon in it, pulling out a small portion of food. I smiled at Ella. She smiled at me. And with one gentle swoop, I put the spoon in her mouth. For a special moment like this, there's only one word that can capture its sentimentality:

DISASTER!

Instead of eating it down like before, she blew bubbles in it, spitting all over her face and mine. I learned quickly that this wasn't mere coincidence. It was actually a cleverly designed deceptive move on her part so I'd let down my guard. As I wiped my face with my sleeve, she grabbed the spoon and flung what was left at her mom. With her free hand, she grabbed the bowl and poured it all over the table.

I'd like to say I was mad. I'd even like to say I was surprised. But I was neither. As I finished wiping off my face, I immediately saw my little girl give the biggest smile she's ever made. She was proud of what she did—not because she made a mess but because in her eyes she was helping. I turned to my wife who was also smiling. I couldn't help but follow suit.

So the three of us sat there, one happy, rice-covered family. I only hope that everyone can be so lucky.

The Life of Dad is updated most Fridays (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

November 16, 2007

Two Godmothers Are Better Than One ...

Baptism is a right of passage that most Catholics bestow upon their children. According to the church, it cleanses newborns from Adam and Eve's original sin and asserts their belief in Christianity that, if memory serves me right, involves Jesus, a cross and a 1973 Oscar-nominated rock opera.

Man, I do love a good rock opera.

Now I'm not a big traditionalist, but I don't think my daughter should be punished for some dude and some chick eating an apple—which, if you think about it, must be the lamest sin in history. I can only imagine how that scene must have gone down:

Adam: "Hey Eve, wanna smoke this crack?"
Eve: "Hell no! I've got something much better than that."
Adam: "What is it?"
Eve: "An apple."
Adam: "SCORE!"

Aside from the fact that this poor excuse for a sin is the most touted and recognizable sin of all of time, it's still a church-approved offense that must be washed away. So after a few phone calls (and several weekly donations), we had a time and a place for Ella to join the church. Throw in a few more calls and we had a reception hall and caterer. Everything was falling into place. Only one detail left to be resolved: The Godparents.

Being named Godparent houses a lot of responsibility. You must guide the child spiritually. You must support them when they need support. You must buy them an extra gift every Christmas, and it must be something good. Not a sweater. Kids hate sweaters.

Brittany asked me my opinion, so I told her I would send out a call to all my Life of Dad readers requesting a resume, a list of references and a two-paragraph essay on why they deserve to be Ella's Godparent. After the submissions rolled in, I'd narrow the list down to 20 worthy candidates and send them a Godparent quiz. The quiz would include revealing questions like "If Ella came to you with a boy problem, what would you say to her?" and "What is the capital of Montana" (The correct answers here are "You punch that boy in the crotch and lock yourself in your parents' house until you're 32" and "Helena.") From there, we narrow it down to the top six contenders and hold live interviews. After a few weeks of careful deliberation, we could choose the two people who display the best qualities for this position.

"Or," said Brittany, "We could just make our sisters Godparents."

"Let's hope they know their state capitals."

Traditionally, you have two godparents—a godmother (female) and a godfather (male, Italian decent a plus). But again, I've never been much of a traditionalist. And in Church 2.0 the godparents don't have to be different genders. Plus, Brittany's argument for using her sister Allison and my sister Jennifer were strong: Both will love our child more than most anyone, both have a strong sense of right and wrong, and both are extremely aware of the "no sweaters as gifts" rule. While it wasn't exactly the selection process an HR department would approve, it was one I could comfortably and happily accept.

So this past Sunday, family and a few friends watched as Ella got dunked in that giant bowl and shed herself of original sin. They watched as Ali and Jennie confirmed that they'd help raise our daughter in the name of faith, love, humility and hope. They watched as my wife shed a tear and I mouthed to my buddy Will, "What time does the Bengals' game start?"

All in all, it was a pretty amazing event.

November 2, 2007

Trick and Treat ...

Like most women I know, Ella was incredibly indecisive on what costume to wear on this, her first Halloween. She tried on several outfits and dealt with the same fears that many young girls deal with: Does this make my butt look big? Will I be comfortable? If I drool on it, will it absorb quickly?

For the weeks leading up to the big day, it seemed pretty clear that she had made her choice. She planned to fly around the neighborhood as a beautiful butterfly, which was weird considering she doesn't even know how to walk. But, mobility aside, we dressed her up on Wednesday afternoon and got ready to trick-or-treat.

Like any busy parents, we started running down the list of items needed for the night. Candy? Check. Costumes? Check. Scary smell coming from Ella's diaper? Check. We had everything covered until my wife brought up one very important oversight on our part—we didn't have any Halloween decorations in front of the house. No ghouls, no goblins, not even a pumpkin.

Boo! (Think a little less Casper and a little more Bengals' Fan).

Some dads would panic, but not this one. I'm not only fun and good looking, but I'm also an excellent problem solver. I searched high and low, far and wide, near and far (again). I even checked the cleaning supply closet (an area of the house I'd never set foot in before) for an answer. Then, suddenly, the giant light bulb above my head lit up with only a brightness that dads could appreciate. I grabbed Ella, went upstairs and worked my magic.

Minutes later I returned downstairs with an Ella Pumpkin—that's right, an Ella Pumpkin—and set her on the front stoop. She would serve as our festive decoration for the rest of the night. Thankfully, she didn't mind and did an excellent job glowing for everyone who visited Klems Manor.

As the night and candy cauldron came to an end, we turned off the lights and headed back inside. Ella's first Halloween was over and it went off great. She may not remember being our little pumpkin, but she can smile knowing all the kids who visited us that fine night thought our pumpkin was the best.

Then, of course, we changed her back into her everyday outfit and went to bed.

"Goodnight, your highness."

The Life of Dad is updated most Fridays (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

October 26, 2007

Our Little Halloweenie ...

Picking out a Halloween costume for a three-month-old child should be easier than listening to the radio and less irritating than The Song That Never Ends—just slap a ghoulish onesie on her bod and pumpkin hat on her head and you're set. Hell, the kid can't go trick-or-treating and the only memory she'll have of the event is an embarrassing picture dad took proving that mom considered dressing her up as an Oscar Mayer wiener.

(Editor's Note Posted On Advice From Libel Attorney: My wife did not, in any way, shape or form, suggest that we dress up our daughter as an Oscar Mayer wiener. She did, however, admit that she thinks Oxygen's "Tori and Dean Inn Love" is [quote] a good show [unquote].)

Needless to say that when my wife approached me about dressing up Ella in a costume, I wasn't exactly what you'd call "on board." Seemed like a waste of time, a waste of energy and a waste of what dads like to call "savings." But when I looked at my little girl and she gave me the dough eyes (or the I-Pooped Eyes, it's hard to tell the difference), I caved.

Now over the years I've been fairly reluctant to buy costumes from a store. To me, part of Halloween's sugar buzz is brainstorming and piecing together a clever outfit. I've had an array of success to show for it—Where's Waldo, Luke Duke, Catholic School Girl, and (my personal favorite) Dark Helmet from Spaceballs. There have also been several failures—Silent Bob (I'm not very silent), Punk Rock kid (just looked like 27-year-old loser) and giant Homer Simpson papier-machĂ© head (which is really a push because it eventually became the mask for Dark Helmet).

With that in mind, I started to get excited about the idea. My brain clicked like clockwork and I began drawing up plans for some of the best and more adorable family costumes. My first idea involved us dressing up like characters from The Wizard of Oz. Ella could be Dorothy (red slippers and all), I would be the Tin Man and Brittany could be the Wicked Witch of the West. After two nights of sleeping on the couch, I decided that this idea wasn't good for my back.

Strike one.

Next on my list of ideas: The Flintstones. I figured with my loud mouth, I'd make a great Fred. Brittany has the red hair for Wilma. And Ella is the perfect size to make an adorable Pebbles. Unfortunately this plan hit a snag when it was brought to my attention that none of us know how to sew.

Strike two.

My sister-in-law (also a creative at heart) got into the mix and attempted to make this a giant family affair. She made her Chihuahua, Hula, a ladybug outfit and wanted Ella to be a flower. She also suggested Brittany dress as a watering can (because she helps the "flower" grow) and I go as a farmer. While I appreciate the thought, I had to shoot this down. Can you imagine how many people would try to water her? (That's right, I'm looking at you Grandpa T.)

Strike three, I'm out.

I wish I could tell you that I came up with a genius idea. I wish I could tell you that I came up with even an OK idea. I wish I could tell you that I came up with an idea that didn't cause my wife to look at me and ask, "Are you mentally challenged?" But I can't.

With Halloween right around the corner, I waived the white undershirt of defeat and bought a costume from Babies R Us. Sure it's cute and adorable, but it doesn't carry the same prestige and fun-spirit that a homemade costume would. And though I may not have succeeded this year, I vow to make the sweetest costume for her next year—or, at the very least, something much sweeter than an Oscar Mayer wiener.

What will Ella be for Halloween? Stop back next week to find out (I'll post a picture).

The Life of Dad is updated most Fridays (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

October 12, 2007

Questions to Ask Your Babysitter

Finding a babysitter is about as fun as getting your car repaired: You know you have to do it, it'll take way longer than you'd like and the bill will make you say things like, "We better start packing our lunches" and "How much do you think I can get for this kidney?"

On our quest to find Ella a sitter, we interviewed somewhere between 11 and 900 candidates because, according to Brittany, "no one is good enough to watch our little angel." This statement, of course, is currently true, but is subject to change the first time our "angel" runs around the house smearing poop on the wall.

The interview process is quite miserable. It's long, taxing on the brain and involves a list of 1,000 well-prepared (yet incredibly boring) questions that my wife found on BabyCenter.com. This includes snoozers like "What activities do you do with the children?" and "How do you calm them down?" and "How do you discipline the kids?"

While these questions are nice on a macro-level, what do they really tell you about a person? Not nearly enough. That's why I've developed a quiz of five very basic multiple-choice questions that I believe can tell you all you need to know about a potential babysitter:

Question 1: Which of these do you consider your weakest bar sport?

a. Foosball
b. Ping Pong
c. Billiards
d. Flip Cup

If she doesn't answer "billiards," head for the car. Babysitters must be quick, determined and adaptable. Billiards is a game of finesse (thanks to Benny "The Jet" Wagner for that piece of advice). It's slow and many people need a partner to play. Do you want to leave your child in the hands of someone who is dependant on others and doesn't have the reflexes necessary to catch your child as she falls from the refrigerator she just climbed? I don't think so.


Question 2: Which one of these books did you enjoy the most?

a. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
b. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
c. A Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
d. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

Any of these answers are acceptable, as this proves your sitter can read. Scoff all you want, but this skill is a must. Sure, it'll come in handy when mom wants her to read Dr. Suess to your kid. But to dad, it's more important to know that she can read warning labels on all house-cleaning supplies and also the note you left telling her that under no circumstance is your mother or mother-in-law allowed to steal the baby. (Bonus Tip: You may also want to provide your sitter with mug shots).


Question 3: If you were stranded on an island with only one person, who would it be?

a. Your Husband
b. Your Children
c. My Children
d. I prefer to be there alone

Trick question. The correct answer here is Mr. T. He not only offers protection due to his badass-ed-ness, but also provides countless hours of entertainment. And while her children or your children may say something cute from time to time, none of them has a catch phrase as powerful as our favorite member of the A-Team: "I pity the fool who doesn't pass this babysitter quiz!"


Question 4: Can you beat me in arm-wrestling?

a. Yes
b. No
c. Probably
d. Maybe if you've been drinking

I don't care if I was drunk, injured or asleep, there's no way I'd lose any feats-of-strength competition to a babysitter—at least not a babysitter I'm willing to hire. Any daycare provider who thinks she can beat me in arm wrestling is either 1) delusional or 2) a dude. And I'm uncomfortable with both. Therefore, the only acceptable answer here is "No."


Question 5: Do you read this hilarious blog called "The Life Of Dad"?

a. Always
b. Most of the time
c. Never
d. Are you kidding? I have a poster of him on my wall!

Don't trust a sitter who answers "c." She's probably a communist.

(And, if you're wondering, we were lucky to find an awesome babysitter who answered all of these questions correctly—that's right, even the Mr. T. one.)

The Life of Dad is updated most Fridays (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

September 28, 2007

No Longer King

Once upon a time I lived in a house where I was king. Friends came to visit, drink beers and reminisce about old times. Family came to play games and eat cheese coneys. In-laws came to tell me that my grass could use a good cutting, repeating it over and over until finally, after hours of this, the nagging would wear me out and I'd set down my Mt. Dew, get up off the couch and turn up the volume on the television.

Being king gives you great advantages.

All was fine and good at Klems Manor until the day we brought Ella home from the hospital. In a blink of an eye, the paradigm shifted. There were no more beers. No more games. My throne had been passed along and I suddenly found myself removed from the glorious crown and demoted to lowly role of court jester.

To quote Fozzie Bear, "Wocka Wocka Wocka."

It's a little known fact that new fathers suffer from a severe post-partum affliction called "Dadpression," or a feeling of being completely ignored by all who pass through the door. It's true. Dadpression is not only a serious ailment, but is also extremely common after first babies—particularly if those babies have extra-squishy cheeks.

The key cause of Dadpression is quite simple: Once baby arrives, no one cares about dad anymore. In fact, in the long line of importance, he's lucky to even be on the list. As any dad will tell you, the greater hierarchy goes as follows:

Baby
Mom
Grandparents
Aunts/Uncles
Other Family Members
Friends
Neighbors
People You Don't Know
Raccoons
Dad

When people walk through our door, the first thing they do is grab the baby and give her a hug. Next, they turn to mom and say, "I can't believe how skinny you are! You don't even look like you had a baby!" After that, they wave to Steven, my HDTV, and look for Glenn, his strictly hetero life partner (and remote control). The only time anyone even acknowledges that I'm in the room is when they need something to drink or need something to eat or need me to "stop watching Uncle Buck…seriously we've seen it like 500 times…I mean it, change channels…no, giant pancakes are not that funny."

Now I'm not necessarily complaining about this. Sure, falling so far so quickly is a pretty jagged pill to swallow. But thankfully the pill falls to dad, who not only can accept this fate in a reasonable timeframe but can also embrace it. Honestly, we dads look at this Budweiser as half-full and find ways to use the invisibility of Dadpression to our advantage. Don't believe me? Ask yourself this:

Why do dads always walk around in their underwear?

Dadpression. If no one is going to notice us, why not be comfortable. This invisibility opens us up to a whole new world of possibilities that disappeared the day we got married.

There are other common symptoms of Dadpression, too, including (but not limited to) beer bellies, stinky feet, unruly nose hairs, holey underwear (and not the good kind), receding hairlines, trails of Dorito crumbs leading to dad's chair and, most of all, toxic gas.

I may not be the center of attention ever again, but as you can see I'm completely OK with it. I'd rather everyone fawn over my daughter, showering her with love and making her the highest form of royalty in our family. And while I'm sure I'll miss being king from time to time, I certainly plan to take full advantage of my life as a jester and embrace my Dadpression—and all of its symptoms. I'm sure my wife will be happy to hear that.

"Wocka Wocka Wocka."

The Life of Dad is updated most Fridays (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

September 14, 2007

Diaper Dad

On the Things-That-Are-Difficult food chain, changing a diaper falls somewhere between wrestling a bear in Boston and convincing that bear to wear an "I *heart* the Yankees" t-shirt. It's something no man attempts until his wife, in what can only be described as a total lapse in judgment, leaves for the supermarket and puts him in charge. And women should know that men should never (ever) be put in charge.

According to my wife, changing a diaper is easy. It involves five steps that, if followed properly, will take a total of no more than one minute to complete. The steps are as follows:

1. Open diaper
2. Wipe baby parts
3. Remove diaper while simultaneously sliding new diaper under baby
4. Secure new diaper
5. Throw dirty diaper away.

She says that anyone with half a brain can do this and that she's pretty sure I do, in fact, have half a brain. But, after eight-plus weeks of changing Ella's diaper, I think it's safe to say that I've completely and unequivocally proved her wrong.

Just like any man, my brain doesn't operate like that. It's filled with important information, like who won the 1986 World Series and how many times you can wear a t-shirt before it needs to be washed (if you said "less than 12," you'd be wrong). There's no space in there for unimportant knowledge like birthdays, anniversaries, color coordination and diaper-changing instructions. Even if there were, I don't believe in using instructions. No man does. We like to follow gut instinct.

Of course, a typical diaper change under "gut instinct" goes something like this:

1. Open diaper.
2. Baby screams uncontrollably.
3. Panic.
4. Take two shots of Jack.
5. Start to wipe baby parts. Also wipe baby foot after baby dips foot into dirty diaper that you haphazardly left laying wide open.
6. Slide new diaper under baby, though can't figure out how to work the adhesives that hold it together.
7. Wipe own elbow after dipping it in the dirty diaper that's STILL laying wide open.
8. Go to secure diaper, notice hand is all wet. Look up and see a fresh load in new diaper.
9. Repeat steps 1-7.
10. Secure new diaper with duct tape, take two more shots of Jack, call wife and beg her to come home immediately.

Now, for a few unfortunate dads, the fun stops here. Luckily in my household there's a bonus Step 11: Get yelled at by wife for 1) not throwing the dirty diaper away, 2) putting the clean diaper on backwards and 3) not cutting the grass—hey, when she's on a roll …

I'll probably never master the art of a successful diaper change, and I don't expect to. It's not in my blood. If you're looking for someone to squash a bug or paint a deck or win you a fantasy baseball championship, I'm your guy. But if your baby needs a changin', you're better off calling an aunt or grandma or the creepy lady next door who has no kids but owns 17 cats and calls them her "babies." Each is more qualified to fulfill your diaper-changing needs.

And if you ever think about asking me to change a baby, just remember one thing: it'll cost you three times as many diapers and six times as many wipes. But don't worry, it's not all bad— I do come equipped with my own roll of duct tape.

The Life of Dad is updated most Fridays (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

August 31, 2007

Dream a Little Dream …

My wife and I were lounging around last Saturday night watching our 6-week-old daughter snooze, when all of a sudden she hit me with one of those mind-bending questions that came dangerously close to making my brain explode:

"Do you think babies can dream?"

Now I'm smart, but not I- Know- Whether- A- Baby- Dreams- Or- Not smart. I'm smart in the sense that I can successfully answer questions like "How do you play Sudoku" and "Did Justin Timberlake, in fact, bring sexy back?" I gave her question some serious thought, though, weighing the pros and cons, debating the obvious issues at hand, and came up with a very profound:

"Why not?"

It's not implausible, is it? After all, babies are an awful lot like adults. They're grumpy when they're hungry. They're grumpy when they're sleepy. They're grumpy when MTV rates some Eminem video #1 on its Best Videos of All-Time List, even though anyone with half a brain knows it's impossible to top Michael Jackson's "Thriller." (Perv or not, he rocked the casbah with that one.) If babies have the mind capacity for all of this, I'd like to think that they can and do dream.

So we spent the next hour staring at Ella in her car seat, monitoring her every breath, trying to determine if she did, in fact, show any signs of dreaming. But, just like you'd expect from any baby, all she did was drool down the side of her onesie and drop a fart so loud that our neighbors stopped by to "make sure everything was OK." Truthfully, I wasn't.

So I began to search for an answer. According to medical research, babies do experience REM, which is often associated with dreaming. And some doctors—who shall remain nameless but are quoted in several arenas—say that this direct link proves that babies dream. Of course, that's a very big assumption and there's still no factual proof to back this up. Remember, just because you hear the sink running in the bathroom doesn't mean your guest washed his hands.

Now, just for a minute, let's pretend that there's conclusive evidence that babies dream. This begs an even more important question: If babies can dream, what do they dream about? Like any savvy, well-educated journalist, I turned to Google for answers. Some folks seem to think that babies dream about heaven. Others believe that they dream about the womb. And several more (read: a Yahoo user by the name of LuckyLou77 who, for all I know, could be a week shy of her 11th birthday) believe they dream about the one experience they've had so far—popping out of their mama.

While all these answers sound reasonable, none of them seem to click with me. I just can't believe that babies can handle such big and complex ideas. I think it's a safer bet that when Ella is tossing and turning in her crib, she's less likely remembering her birth and more likely fantasizing about a giant bottle filled with boob juice. Hell, if I was a baby, that's all I'd dream about.

So the moral of this story is that babies may or may not dream. No one really knows. And as Ella sat there in her car seat, content as can be, I realized that it really doesn't matter if our infant dreams. As long as she's sleeping soundly, I'm happy. Plus, when it comes down to it, all that really matters is that when she wakes up, mom's around to clean up the giant load in her pants.

The Life of Dad is updated most Fridays (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

August 17, 2007

A Star is Born …

Babies really have the life. Don't believe me? Today marks Ella's one-month birthday and, in a closed-door interview, I asked how she intends to celebrate, to which she replied: Mbnmadna. While this sounds like gibberish, it isn't—it's just baby talk. Luckily for all, I've become an expert in this field and I know "Mbnmadna" clearly translates into:

"I plan to spend the day eating, sleeping, pooping, being adored by everyone and then modeling for a book."

Modeling for a book?

That's right, our little girl is going to spend her "birthday" afternoon in front of a studio camera posing, smiling and looking adorable. If that's not enough, she's even negotiated a chauffeur (Brittany), a diaper changer (Brittany) and the right to sleep in between takes.

Boy, they really grow up fast, don't they?

This all came about Thursday afternoon, when my good friend Jessica (or The Jypsy, as some of you may remember her) stopped by my cube. It started with our typical weekly chat: How's your house? How's your spouse? I really, really like your blouse. When we ran out of words that rhymed, we got to the heart of the visit:

"Brian, and you can totally say no to this, but I'm editing a book about knitted gifts for people and one chapter is devoted to kids. Because Ella is so darn cute, would you mind if we took some photos of her in knitted garb and used her in the book?"

"Will she get paid?"

"Well, no … but she'll get a free copy of the book."

Score.

Now, I don't mean to brag, but Ella is taking after her old man. Once upon a time, many moons ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I, too, was a model. The year was 1984 and a young Brian A. Klems made his way down the Shilitos (now Macy's) runway wearing a dashing, debonair, manly outfit that looked something like this: click here.

My mom was proud. The crowd loved me. The critics used words like "masterful," "breathtaking" and "this generation's Scott Baio." I was on top of the world—less because of the fame and more because they gave us free juice and cookies after the show.

Of course, I eventually had to walk away from the spotlight. The modeling agency cited "creative differences" as the reason for our split, but that's just a cover. I left the limelight to pursue bigger dreams like playing shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds and being featured on NBC's Website with Dwight the Bobblehead.

Now, I don't want you to think that I'm pressuring her into a modeling career. I mean, come on, she's one-month old. Like any good parent, I don't care what profession my daughter chooses. In fact, modeling would likely be at the bottom of my list, but it's hard to pass up a fun opportunity like this. And years from now it'll be cool to look back at that book and tell her stories about her "modeling days."

"Ella, I remember when you drooled all over that cameraman and then, like a polite and well-mannered baby, you licked it right up! Your mom and I were so proud."

So next March, when you're hanging out at your local bookstore looking for a nice spring read, I recommend picking up a copy of Closely Knit by Hannah Fettig. If you do, I'm sure our little star would be happy to autograph the copy for you—of course, it'll look less like a signature and more like sneeze mark.

What a wonderful way to spend your one-month birthday—on location, in the spotlight, being the center of attention. We can all be so lucky to "Mbnmadna."


The Life of Dad is updated most Fridays (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

August 10, 2007

The Big Day Arrives …


People always say how difficult labor is. They tell you horror stories about uncomfortable delivery rooms, hours of pain and a dinner menu consisting of nothing but ice chips. Dads-to-be, I want to put you at ease a little by letting you know that these people—and I want to be perfectly clear on this—are complete and total liars. I found labor to be quite easy and, other than a mild paper cut I sustained while filling out an insurance form, painless.

The time was five p.m. on Monday, July 16. I was over at my parents’ house playing with my new MacBook Pro—a laptop that is so cool, it took the head cheerleader to prom and got to second base—twice! I called my wife to brag and to see what time she’d be leaving the office.

“I think I might be going into labor.”
“Holy (expletive)! Are you serious?”
“I’m going to send out a few more e-mails and finish up some odds and ends …”
“Are you crazy!?! Get your rump in the car. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Come. Home. Now.”

The next 20 minutes were the longest of my life. I paced around the house. Was she coming home? Was she tidying her desk? Was she auditioning for VH1’s “The World Series of Pop Culture”? Only one thing was certain: Within the next 24 hours Steven the TV and Rico the Snoogle were going to have a new brother or sister.

Finally, Brittany’s car pulled into the driveway. She was in obvious pain, less because of her contractions and more because she was listening to Dane Cook's standup. She walked in the house, set down her purse, grabbed my arm and started screaming.

“They are 30 minutes apart. Call the doctor.”

After several rings the doctor picked up. When I explained the situation he politely told me to stop wasting his time and call him back when the contractions started occurring every three minutes.

Brittany, bent over in pain, turns to me. “What’d he say?”

Now, if you’ve ever been around a pregnant woman on the verge of having a baby, the last thing she wants to hear is, I know you’re in pain and it’s going to get worse … and happen more frequently … and when it gets as bad as you think it’ll get, then we can call the doctor and ask for permission to go to the hospital.

“I don't know. I think he was drunk.”

For the next couple hours, Brittany bounced around the house like a drunk Tasmanian Devil. First on the couch, then on the floor. She ran upstairs because it was warmer, then back downstairs because she was too hot. She did enough laps around the coffee table to wear a foot-grove into the carpet. I was afraid that if the contractions didn't reach the three-minute mark soon, she'd bore a hole into the wall with her fist.

When the time finally arrived, I called the doc back and he gave us the OK to load up the car. I grabbed her beautifully packed hospital bag, a stuffed chicken to use as a focal point and a Hot Pocket because, well, I was hungry.

Most who know me know I'm a fairly slow cautious driver, but not today. Not on this big day. I drove like a madman on the way to the hospital, going 35 mph in a 30-mph zone. I weaved in and out of traffic, not because I had to but because my alignment's a mess. And I even made turns without (gulp) signaling! That's right, throw away that key officer—I'm one royal bad dude.

After parking the car, I raced into the hospital, running up to the 9th floor, the pregnancy floor, and signed in. "Forget something?" the nurse asked. So I rushed back down to the car, opened the door, grabbed my lovely wife (who was not amused) and made my way back up to the 9th floor.

We were moved into the triage room where the nurse kicked me out to ask Brittany a series of questions.

"Why am I not allowed in there?" I asked the receptionist.
"They want to ask her questions without you there so she can answer honestly," said the receptionist. "They essentially want to know if you beat her."
"What, like in Scrabble?"

No one—and I mean no one—laughed.

*************

Moments later, we were transfered to a delivery room. A man walked in and shoved a needle in Brittany's back, filling her with what I can only describe as a miracle. The miracle's name was "epidural" and all of a sudden the pain was gone. She stopped screaming, stopped yelling at me and transformed back into the pleasant woman I had married. Needless to say, I gave that man a hug.

The next several hours were a blur. I can't exactly remember the order, but I know these things happened: I called family and friends, family and friends showed up, the doctor broke Brittany's water, I drank four Mt. Dews, Brittany's sister (Melanie) took bets on time-of-birth and gender of baby, I peed out four Mt. Dews, Brittany's other sister (Ali) video-taped her boyfriend sleeping in the waiting room, my sister (Jennie) text-messaged me every few minutes asking for updates and my softball team (too many names to list) won by way of a run-rule.

When it finally came time to push, I was given the job of holding leg number two. Pushing isn't like you see in the movies or on television, where the woman pushes constantly until the baby arrives. The pushing process can span hours and the mother-to-be pushes only about 10% of that time. Reminds me of an after-lunch bathroom break.

Brittany made her first push, which lasted 10 seconds, followed by two more 10-second pushes. When she finished, she peered around her leg and said, and I am not making this up, "Am I done?" That will always be one of my fondest moments from the night.

Push. Push. Push. Break. Push. Push. Push. At precisely 3:51 p.m. a baby emerged from Brittany's who-ha—a beautiful baby with two arms, two legs, hair and her very own who-ha. A little baby girl. A daddy's girl. I couldn't have been happier.

It was the most amazing thing I've ever experienced (and I was at game two of the '90 World Series!). I knew at that moment my life had forever changed, but it had changed for the good. And, as I got to hold Ella Jane for the first time, only one thing crossed my mind:

The psychic was wrong.

July 6, 2007

Only The Essentials …

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the day I asked Brittany, my squishy pride and joy, to be my girlfriend. It was a magical day that would change my life forever. She used to be a timid girl, wearing baggy clothes and an eyebrow ring. Now she's not so timid, her clothes fit (sort of) and the ring has migrated from her brow to her finger—picking up some diamonds along the way. But one thing certainly hasn't changed: She still finds new and exciting ways to ignore me.

For the past 4 months I've been nagging Brittany to pack her bag for the hospital, and for the past 4 months it's laid on the floor empty. She says that she wants to use a suitcase, as if she's going on a trip. But women on TV and the movies don't take a suitcase, they take a duffle bag. They always take a duffle bag. It's essential to the baby delivery process.

"You're taking the duffle!"

The only duffle we owned was an artifact from our years of soccer. It was old and showcased two holes surrounded by a pocket of used tissues. The zipper had a dirty sock dangling from it, much like a tree-shaped air-freshener hangs from a rear-view mirror. And, unlike my favorite softball jersey, it was only covered in a thin layer of Dorito crumbs. It was perfect.

"I'm not taking the duffle," she said.

"Why not!?"

"I can only handle one smelly thing while I'm delivering this baby."

Hmm…I think that was a shot at me.

"That was a shot at you."

After an intense battle of rock, paper, scissors, we compromised and agreed to get a new duffle that was devoid of soccer stink. We also agreed that there's no way in the world that paper beats rock. Nothing should beat rock, except for maybe a gavel. Gavel could definitely beat rock.

The days passed and the duffle still sat in the baby's room. Empty. It drove me crazy. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't watch Will & Grace (though that really had nothing to do with the empty duffle). I couldn't stand not being prepared when the baby could pop out at any minute, so I decided to pack the bag for her.

I rummaged through the house grabbing all the essentials. An item here, an item there. I was careful and meticulous, packing only what I thought she might need in the hospital. Nothing more, nothing less. The duffle was filled to the brim.

I set it on the bed and called Brittany into the room. With a smile, I told her what I had done—how I had helped her prepare for the moment; how it was one thing less that she'd have to do. The look on her face said it all. And what it didn't say, she said out loud:

"Where are my clothes? Where are my toiletries?"

Clothes? Toiletries.

"I only packed your essentials."

"Essentials, eh?" She rummaged through the bag. "Why in the hell do I need a bathing suit, a pound of bologna and a picture of Rod Stewart?"

See fellas, women don't know anything.

She tossed out everything. From bologna to Rod to "Scrubs" season 5. Nothing I packed was suitable. She replaced it with pajamas and underwear and a pouch full of bathroom products, including a toothbush, toothpaste and comb. She explained why these items were far more important than the "junk" I piled into her bag.

With that, she zipped up the duffle and set it next to the bed. It was finally packed and ready to go. I couldn't have asked for a better anniversary present.

Other than maybe a gavel. It definitely beats rock.

(Happy anniversary, love.)

June 29, 2007

Swing Into Action ...

According to Bible, God built the entire universe in less than seven days. By my count, five of them were spent assembling a baby swing.

The Graco® Lovin Hug Swing (Bermuda style) is cute, convenient and easy-to-carry—and was obviously designed by a woman who hated her husband. It comes in 4,000 pieces, most of which aren't pictured in the instruction manual. The booklet is the size of War and Peace and written in four different languages, not one of them being English. And, while there isn't a warning against it, I'm going to give you some very sound advice: Don't sit on the floor without looking first. Trust me, it can be very, very painful.

After several hours of studying the directions, I was finally able to complete step one. I opened the box. Laugh all you want, but that sucker had nearly 18 layers of tape keeping it shut. My wife suggested cutting through it with a knife, but after the CD Rack Assembly Incident of '01 that cost me close to a pint of blood, I think it'd be safer to burn the tape off with a lighter.

(Note: A little advice for future dads out there—don't throw the box away. You'll need something to punch much later in the process, and I found that cardboard is fairly soft on the fist.)

The next step is to pull the seat cover over this intricate web of metal rods and snap it into place. Simple enough, right? I'd like to see you delicately pull a banana peel over, say, the Batmobile, and seal it shut. And do it without Batman kicking your ass.

So, the next 45 minutes went something like this:

Pull.

Tug.

Curse.

Knock over beer.

Curse again.

Tug.

Stub toe on chair.

Curse some more.

Apologize to Steven, my 50-inch HDTV, for cursing—some of which, I promise you, were used in context.

Snap pieces into place, chug beer, throw chair out window.

Moments later, I began work on assembling the legs. This part was not nearly as easy as the seat cover. It came with four long curved polls, two straight rods, some brackety-things, a pile of screws and an Allen wrench. It also came with a bottle of Advil. After several hours of attaching, detaching, reattaching, kicking and smashing against the hardwood floor, Brittany came over to calm me down. I think it worked:

"Take a deep breath," she said.

You suck!

"See, it's simple. All you have to do is stick piece A into slot B."

I'll tell you where you can stick piece A …

"And voilĂ ! The leg is together."

I hope you stub your toe.

I'd like to say that I was able to finish the project that night. I'd also like to say that Brittany let me find out the gender of the baby, but alas, neither of these was true. I did eventually get the swing together, and only had four pieces leftover. Not bad, by Klems' standards.

After conquering the swing, I finally had a chance to sit down and enjoy the moment. I was proud of myself. I usually leave projects unfinished, but I stuck by this one because I'll do anything for my child-to-be. It even brought a tear to my eye—not for sentimental reasons, but because Brittany handed me a box:

"Now put this bouncy seat together."

June 21, 2007

The Envelope Please …

There are a lot of things I don't understand in this world. I don't understand why scaring someone cures the hiccups. I don't get why beer tastes bad when it's warm. And I certainly have no idea why my wife makes me shower after softball, even if I didn't slide. But I'm perplexed most in this world by people who claim to "see" or "predict" the future, also known as psychics.

Let me state for the record right now that just because I don't believe in psychics doesn't mean that you shouldn't or that they don't exist. It just means that I think you're crazy. After all, if psychics exist, then why don't you see newspaper headlines like "Psychic Wins Lottery" or "Psychic Stops Steve Bartman From Ruining Cubs' Playoffs." I believe in cold, hard facts and nothing could really change that—except for a cold, hard fact disproving it.

Why am I talking about psychics, you ask? Well, three days ago Brittany handed me an envelope.

"What's this?"

"A coworker asked her psychic whether we were having a boy or a girl. She wrote the answer down and put it in an envelope. While I don't want to know what it says, I thought you might."

Now, for the record, I've met this coworker before and she is anything but crazy. She's kind, smart and funny. She once told Brittany that I was a very handsome husband—that's proof of smart, not funny (you jerks). Getting her psychic to project the sex of our baby because I desperately want to know is also a very, very kind thing to do.

Now, this puts me in a bit of a predicament—which my wife loves. If I open the envelope, I'm essentially saying that there may be teensy, weentsy chance that I actually believe in said "magical" powers. In my mind, this is as miserable as admitting to my softball buddies that I believe in the designated hitter (which I do NOT!). If I stick to my guns and don't open the envelope, I'll prove that I don't believe in this hocus pocus once and for all.

So, using my best judgment, I left it on the coffee table—unopened—and went up to bed, resisting temptation and sticking by my principles. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. Of course, the minute Brittany fell asleep I was back downstairs, envelope in hand, trying to steam the seal open—which, by the way, does not work nearly as well as it does in the movies.

I couldn't bring myself to do it, though. And now, three days later, I'm still agonizing over it. Why do I care what some psychic thinks? I didn't care when the doctor told us he thought we were having a girl. I also didn't care when, three months later, the same doctor said that he thought we were having a boy (This way, as he sees it, he can't be wrong). Just like the doctor, my sister, Brittany's sister, Brittany's mom, my mom and anyone else who cares to take a stab, the psychic has got the same 50/50 shot as anyone.

The truth of the matter is, while I don't actually believe the psychic has insider info, I am curious of her opinion. Maybe it's so when the baby is born I can say, "A-HA! See, no one can predict the future." Maybe it's because if she's right, I need time to prepare my "What a lucky guess" speech. Either way, I think one thing is evident: I'm going to open this envelope.

So, as I sit here typing, I start to tear through the flap. I made sure no one is looking, looking both ways as if I was crossing the street. It's finally open. I see a piece of paper. I unfold it. And, according to the psychic, we're having a …

Hmmm…that's interesting. I guess we'll just have to wait and see if she's right.

June 8, 2007

The Pregnancy Stupids …

Men and women have brains that function differently. I know, this isn't exactly late-breaking news, but it's still worth mentioning. After all, men look at that original statement and see, "Men and women have brains that function differently." Women look at that statement and read, "Men are stupid."

I've always been able to admire women and their ability to multitask. Sure, I can handle a few jobs simultaneously, like watch baseball and eating a bag of Doritos. But Brittany's able to do seven things at once, all while talking on the phone, listening to me and reading Entertainment Weekly.

Of course, this was before she came down with a bad case of the Pregnancy Stupids.

I'm not sure if you ever realized this, but every woman who bears a child loses 70% of her brain functionality. It's true. Through thorough scientific research (watching Brittany on more than one occasion), I've proved that woman have 10 multitasking slots that can be used for anything—from chores around the house to handling finances to driving while putting on makeup. When a woman becomes pregnant, seven of these slots become permanently filled with pregnancy thoughts and responsibilities. And, unfortunately, she'll never get them back.

Ever since Brittany became pregnant back in October, she's become messy. She's stopped cleaning up after herself. She spills food on her shirts and leave crumbs on the floor. If that's not enough, she'll watch television while completely ignoring everyone around her, including her spouse. The more I think about it, the more I realize that pregnancy has turned her into a smaller version of me.

This is really bad news.

I knew we had taken a turn for the worse a few weeks ago when I walked in the bedroom and she sat there, remote in hand, yelling uncontrollably.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"The TV won't turn off. I've been pressing the off button for 10 minutes and nothing. Zilch. Maybe the batteries are dead?"

I walked over to the bed. After a few minutes of examination, I realized the problem.

"The batteries aren't dead. You're hitting the stop button for the VCR."

So, as I lay there in the guest bedroom, I began to contemplate how these Pregnancy Stupids were going to affect our home life. It's bad enough we had one lazy mooch in the house, now we had two. Throw in the baby who was living in my wife's uterus rent free, and you have three.

The Pregnancy Stupids aren't strictly for those with X chromosomes. Males can suffer from it too. It's true. Very rarely do I do anything stupid (stop laughing), but this week I really topped myself. I went to lunch with two very lucky coworkers, Robin (scrapbooker and pop culture extraordinaire) and Maria (my fun-loving work wife—don't worry, Brittany is cool with it). We took my car, a first for 2007, mainly because most don't like the mixed scent of softball and White Castles. As we returned to the office, we were in deep conversation and on the verge of solving world peace when I stepped out my Honda Civic, locking and shut the door. My work wife, who's always looking out for my best interest, turns to me and says, "Aren't you going to turn off your car?"

There I was, standing on the outside of my car, staring at my keys still jingling from the ignition. It took several seconds for me to put two and two together (hey, I'm an English guy, not a Mathematician). The second it hit me, I saw both Robin and Maria shut their doors. The whole thing happened in seconds, but felt like a slow motion montage in a movie—click, click.

"NO!!!!!!!"

In my 12 years of driving, I had never locked my keys in my car. On Wednesday, I did it with the motor running.

A few phone calls to Progressive Roadside assistance and 35 minutes later, I had my keys in hand. I'd like to say I was embarrassed, but, honestly, I wasn't. If I do stupid things and make silly mistakes in life all because I'm saving my best decisions for parenting, I'm OK with it. I'd rather save my wisdom and guidance for BK3, raising her (or him) to be independent, self-reliant and, essentially, not to need me. If I have to suffer through a few speed bumps along the way (and $7.64 in wasted gas), then so be it.

At least I know how to turn off the TV.


June 1, 2007

My Father's Son ...

My mom likes to tell the story of when I was born, but I think it's important to hear it from my point of view. Most of it is true; though the names have been changed to protect their innocence.

It was the most beautiful day that there ever was. OK, OK. It wasn't "the most beautiful" but it was a nice day. She was sitting at home, watching soap operas—I mean, doing something smart like The New York Times Crossword and reciting her state capitals—when all of a sudden I started to kick.

"Oh #*$@, I think those are contractions!"

She called my dad, who worked 20 minutes away, and, in an extremely calm and pleasant voice, said, "If you don't get home in less than five minutes and drive me to the hospital I swear I'll name this kid Garfunkel." Four minutes later, he was unlocking the door and grabbing her overnight bag.

The ride to the hospital took even less time. Stop signs were ignored. Speed limits didn't exist. Pedestrians did not have the right of way. They pulled up to the front of the hospital and rushed inside. After only a few minutes of waiting, they got upstairs and into the birthing room.

Now my mom has her opinion on how long and painful the experience was, but she obviously was drugged and delusional. I like to think that the labor was as comfortable as a weeklong massage, as smooth as a Ken Griffey Jr. swing and as exciting as a Donnie Osmond solo. It may have been the second greatest moment in history, just after the invention of the Pop Tart.

As I made my way down the water slide known as the birth canal, I said goodbye to my neighbors, Keith the Kidney and Belinda the Bladder. "World, here I come!" When my head popped out, I winked at the doctor letting him know that I was ready. Moments later, I was born.

They cut my umbilical cord (or umbiblical cord, as I apparently have been calling it for years) and handed me to my mom. I had a round head, a full noggin of hair and a face that would make your average Gerber baby jealous. Both my mom and dad stared at me with tears in their eyes, proud as could be. I responded the only way I knew how—by farting.

"Definitely his father's son."

The next day, plenty of people visited me in the hospital. So many new faces. So many people holding me. So many fingers pinching my cheeks—both facial and non-facial! My features quickly began to change. My eyes became darker, my smile brighter and my hair began falling out (a trend that would make a revival later in my life). Some folks thought I looked like an angel. My mom, on the other hand, thought I looked like Ed Asner.

I was getting acclimated to the new world as much as the new world was getting acclimated to me. At the time, I didn't know what my life would hold. I didn't know that my parents would raise me to be a smart and loving adult. I didn't know that I'd have a sister who'd idolize me (oh yes, Jennie, you do). I didn't know I'd have friends that would pick me up when I was down. I didn't know that I'd meet the most amazing girl in the world, marry her and then get her to carry my baby.

I just didn't know how wonderful my life would be.

And, as I sit here at my keyboard, contemplating the life-altering event that's less than eight weeks away, I thank my lucky stars. Not so much because my life is wonderful, but more because I wasn't named Garfunkel.

May 25, 2007

No Cone-Heads Here ...

BabyCenter.com offers a lot of helpful advice, like which over-the-counter drugs are safe, how to choose a durable car seat and why you shouldn't strangle your wife no matter how much she nags you. But I couldn't help noticing a link toward the bottom of this week's e-mail update that fell right between "10 tips for labor coaches" and "Got the pregnancy blahs? Let us help." It said the following:

Funny-Looking Newborns: Watch Here.

I made the click and sat through a video of silly-looking babies. Most had disproportionate cone-heads, patches of fur and a body covered in what looked like cheese. Not one of them was more than a week old. It was pretty funny until they pulled the camera away and showed the parents, all fairly good-looking and well-groomed. I immediately ran to a mirror.

After several hours of staring intently of my reflection, I couldn't help but point out the obvious problem: I'm good-looking and well-groomed! Does that mean I'm going to have a goofy-looking baby?

From day one of the pregnancy I always had assumed my baby would be the most gorgeous thing to grace this Earth. He wouldn't come out slimy or bloody or with a tail, but wearing a suit and tie, hair parted to the left, smoking a bubble-pipe. She wouldn't be covered in cheese, but sporting a sun dress, pigtails and wearing one of those Lance Armstrong bracelet thingies because, after all, she cares about cancer. For the first time I actually considered the notion that my baby may look like Alf. Or worse, Steve Buscemi.

Like any good parent, I immediately started to hyperventilate and freak out. Nobody wants an ugly kid. Sure, I expect any child of mine to have extremely hairy legs and a giant head, but smooth hairy legs and a perfectly round giant head. I also naturally planned for the kid to have cheeks so squeezable that they make ketchup bottles around the world jealous. I envisioned all the cute traits, not thinking about the looks that would have both my wife and I using the phrase, "Well, the baby gets that from my spouse's side of the family."

Determined to avoid any type of awkward looks, I decided to be proactive. Reaching deep in the think tank, I remembered back to the one time I went to the gym. There were plenty of pretty people all over the place lifting weights, doing sit-ups, bouncing on that extremely large ball—all trying to improve their physique. When in the cardio room, I noticed a young girl on a treadmill staring at a fitness magazine with a model on the cover for motivation.

That's it!

I raced home and started flipping through magazines. Within minutes I had exactly what I needed. As Brittany dozed on the couch, I slowly worked my magic. A few snips here. A little tape there. And VOILA! I successfully taped a picture of George Clooney to the right side of her belly and Scarlett Johansson to her left, both facing in toward the baby. Now BK3—whether a boy or a girl—had some motivation, something to shoot for. I couldn't expect the kid to come out good-looking if he or she wasn't educated on the subject.

This plan was imaginative and brilliant and would have worked if there hadn't been one major flaw: Brittany doesn't like pictures taped to her belly, especially ones based on what she calls "probably the dumbest idea you've ever had, even worse than the time I was sleeping and you shoved that Rubbermaid tub between my legs 'just in case the baby fell out.'" She ripped the pictures off, letting George and Scarlett fall to the floor. It was a sad day for me—and for Hollywood.

With a lot of rational thought, logical reasoning and the threat of sleeping in the guest room for the next month, Brittany finally convinced me that no matter what I did it wouldn't change the looks of the baby. And, more important, I shouldn't want to. The baby would blend our best qualities and come out looking exactly as he (or she) is meant to; and, to us, BK3 will be the most beautiful baby we'll have ever seen—round head or not.

It's scary to think that your child won't be perfect, but it's something you have to accept as a parent. My sister wasn't perfect. Brittany wasn't perfect. I wasn't per…we'll, I'm the exception to the rule. But no matter how hard you try, your kid is always going to have some flaws—and that's OK. It's what makes them interesting. It's what makes them who they are. It's what makes them yours.

Just hope they don't show up on a Funny-Looking Newborns video.

May 18, 2007

My 28 Reasons ...

Once every 365 days something amazing happens. And no, I'm not talking about something stupid like April Fools Day or Sweetest Day or my anniversary. I'm talking about the one day each year that reminds everyone of when God gave his greatest gift to this Earth—my birthday—which happens to be today.

That's right! When that calendar rolled over to May 18th, I was anointed 28 years young. I know this officially places me in an elite group called "The Upper 20s," but I'm proud to be a part of it. It's a club that, at one time or another, has been occupied by many brilliant minds, including Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's.

What's special about this birthday is it's the last one I'll be celebrating pre-fatherhood. Not that all future birthdays won't be special, but this birthday signals a graduation of sorts into full-blown adulthood. Therefore, it's time to cut out the funny business and reflect on everything I learned through experience, education and reruns of "Family Ties" to run my household in the best way I know how.

In honor of my 28th birthday, I'd like to present my future child (and you) with the 28 reasons that I'm going to be the greatest dad in the world:

1. I don't believe in making the bed. You're just going to mess it up again before the day is over.

2. Stains don't ruin clothes, they give them character.

3. When I'm in charge of dinner, we'll eat only three things: bacon pizza, pepperoni pizza and bacon-pepperoni pizza.

4. No matter how big you get, there will always be a minimum of one TV bigger than you in my house.

5. For family holidays, your mom is going to try and dress you up in fancy, uncomfortable clothes, but I'll take the heat off of you by wearing athletic shorts, sandals and my "Make 7 Up Yours" t-shirt.

6. I'll be happy to drive you where ever you want as long as it involves on of these three words: baseball, softball or foosball.

7. When I go to the store, I come home with only two things: Mt. Dew and Doritos.

8. Mom is the disciplinarian, as I don't believe in grounding or timeouts. My punishments—if you'd call them that—involve you, me, a couch and endless hours of Broadway musicals.

9. When the latest video game you want hits store shelves, chances are I already own it.

10. Reading time will be held every night. The curriculum includes Dr. Suess (which we can read together), some hot chocolate and matching Spider-man (or Spider-woman) pajamas.

11. You will not be allowed to go to school on Opening Day. As far as I'm concerned, it's more important than Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter combined.

12. Singing in the shower is not only common but encouraged, though there are only two types of acceptable songs—TV sitcom theme songs and anything that will annoy your mother.

14. Bobblehead, in my house, is a term of endearment.

15. I don't care if you learn silly subjects like science and math. They are inconsequential in life. I want to teach you more practical studies, which is why I won't settle for anything less than hard work, practice and perfection of The Chicken Dance.

16. On Sundays, pants are optional.

17. I will gladly teach you to play guitar as long as you're content playing nothing but Green Day and that song by Ozzie Osborne that goes "Duh. Duh. Duh Duh Duh. Duhduhduhduhduhduhda.Duh Duh Duh Duh."

18. There will never be a short supply of sweater vests in the house.

19. Disneyland is a place for suckers, which is why we'll only vacation to historical/educational destinations and Indiana Beach (oh yes, there is such a place and … It. Is. Heavenly.).

20. I have accumulated several thousand hugs over the years and am fully prepared to give them all to you, one at a time.

21. I own the entire John Candy movie collection, including Cool Runnings and Who's Harry Crumb? And I plan to give them to you, too.

22. Wrestling is allowed, though elbows to the groin are banned, no matter how funny your mom may think it is.

23. Always buy toilet paper. I know this isn't really a reason that I'm going to be a great dad, but I still think it's pretty solid advice.

24. In true Klems fashion, I will call and sing happy birthday to you on your birthday every year until the day that I die. I can't promise it will be in tune, but I can promise it will be from the heart. And loud.

25. I teach a free grass-cutting seminar to all children over the age of 10. Pass, and you get a bonus hedge-trimming tutorial.

26. I will keep you far, far away from the evil John Stamos. You'll thank me when you're older.

27. You'll get to go on tour with your dad when his band, Optimus Prime, reunites for a reunion and plays their hit song, "Why Do People Hate Us? 'Cause We're So Good Looking."

28. And finally, the four words that every child dreams of hearing his or her father say: Saturday Night Boggle Tournament.

Oh man, I'm going to make one great dad.

May 11, 2007

Back to School …

Last weekend started off great. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. The air was crisp and delightful. And I completely ignored all of it to watch our newly installed cable. I spent exactly three years, six months and four days with nothing but (gasp) network television and, somehow, lived to tell this story. Might as well have tied animal hide around my waist, stuck a club in my hand and called me a caveman.

I had planned to spend all day Saturday sitting on the couch, unshowered in my Homer boxers, flipping from station to station, pretending to watch the History channel but actually watching VH1's Celebrity Fit Club. (Forget about Cinco De Mayo—Marcia Brady is trying to lose some weight and needs my help!) I had been dreaming about this day ever since I placed the call to Time Warner. Then Brittany, like any loving and caring wife, ripped the dream out from under my nose by reminding me that we already had exciting plans: Birthing Class.

Now I've taken several classes in my life—economics, calculus, figure skating—and not one of them scared me as much as Birthing Class. For starters, none of them required my attendance on a Saturday morning, nor did their syllabi include such lectures as "Proper Nutrition for Newborns" or "How Babies Are Born—The Video." The class was an all-day event and cost us 100 smackaroos. For those of you unfamiliar, that's a lot of smackaroos!

We showed up at the hospital at the unreasonable hour of "before noon" and made our way to the classroom. There were 15 other couples joining us on the journey, and each one looked exactly the same: hair in a ponytail and pregnant for the wives, unshaven and "Oh- My- God- Is- That- Doctor- In- That- Poster- On- The- Wall- Going- To- Cut- Off- The- Tip- Of- That- Baby's- Penis" facial expression for the husbands. Each husband (including me) was carrying two pillows and a blanket—the required materials for the class. At first I thought they were for comfort, but upon further review I realized that their real purpose was for smothering the first woman who asked, "Can you repeat that part about the enema?"

During the first hour and a half of Birthing Class, a registered dietician explained the importance of finding good deals on diapers, knowing the difference in bottle nipples and how not-breastfeeding your child will make him Kevin Federline-stupid. This news terrified me, so I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and took my first note of the class:

Brittany shall breastfeed until the kid is 20.

Next came The Video. It started off kind of slow with the dad-to-be sitting on a sofa, timing his wife's contractions. The next 25 minutes of the video were equally dull—call doctor, arrive at hospital, sit in room while mom-to-be writhes in pain. In fact, it was super boring. I'm no director, but if it was my video I'd change the setting to a cab or an airplane or a hockey game and have the wife screaming something silly like, "Are these leather seats waterproof?" Then, instead of reaching the hospital she'd somehow get trapped in an elevator with her husband who passes out and an incompetent teenager who rises to the occasion and delivers the baby.

Note number 2: Get car seats waterproofed.

Skip ahead to the actual birth. Her legs are behind her head, her gown is wide open and her fun zone has a baby's head exploding out of it. It wasn't the most pleasant thing to watch, but wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. If that's all it takes to have a baby, Brittany and I will be fine.

Moments later, everything changed.

I had survived breastfeeding talk. I had survived the birth. I had even survived the body odor of the guy sitting next to me. But then, the camera flashed back and this big bloody blob fell out of the mom.

"Did that woman's brain just fall out of her vagina?"

"It's her placenta," Brittany says. "It unites the fetus and the uterus and it's natural for it to fall out after birth."

With this little piece of information, I got up, went into the bathroom, threw up, washed my face, threw up again and tried to escape through the window. Unfortunately this must be a common reaction of husbands because there were breath mints on the sink counter and bars on the windows.

After that visual I don't remember much about the rest of the day. In fact, I spent most of my nights this week huddled in the corner of our bedroom, shaking and mumbling in incoherent sentence fragments, trying to get that image out of my head. It wasn't until I sat down to write this column that I finally snapped out of my funk and came to terms with the birthing process. Sure, it won't be easy to see my wife in so much pain, nor will it be easy for me to watch her push out a baby (among other things). But I want to be there for her and for the baby because, no matter how disgusting it seems, the end result is worth it.

Or, if I'm really lucky, I'll just pass out.

April 27, 2007

Everybody Loves Brian …

After reading nearly seven books on parenting, two on baby names and a weekly newsletter devoted to everything pregnancy, I can safely say that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. Sure, I know better than to name the kid Saddam or let him drink alcohol before he's smart enough to get a fake ID, but I'm not sure I know what to do in the ever-important emergency situation.

And I mean REAL emergency situations.

Any doctor can tell you what to do if you child is running a fever, but he can't save you from leaving the pumpkin seat on top of the car—with the child in it! He can tell you how to properly bandage up a scraped knee, but can't tell you how to cover up the incident (grocery cart race) that caused the scraped knee. And, don't even think about asking him what to do if you leave the kid at the casino.

Seriously, what do we pay doctors for, anyway?

That's why I've decided to turn to the experts in this field: TV Dads. While I know this may sound a bit unorthodox, it's not as absurd as you'd think. "Everybody Loves Raymond," "According to Jim," "Homer"—these guys wrote the book on parenting for the real emergencies that fathers face. So I started studying them all in-depth, learning the ways of the absent-minded father. I took notes. I highlighted those notes. I sniffed the highlighter for several minutes.

Wow, I really am going to make a great dad.

Brittany wasn't nearly as convinced, so she asked if she could put me through a rigorous quiz. I agreed because 1) I like quizzes and 2) I had no idea what "rigorous" meant. We decided that she would present me with three tough scenarios to put my TV Dad skills to the test. How did I fare? I'll let you judge for yourself:

Scenario #1: You're enjoying a pleasant afternoon with your child, lounging around the house, doodling in a Spider-man coloring book. You turn your head for two seconds (OK, more like the entire 5th inning) and, when you look back, your child has conveniently shoved a red crayon up his nose. What do you do?

Answer: This is no time to panic. Take another crayon, say the green one, and stick it up the other nostril. Grab two straws and shove them up your nostrils. When your wife returns, tell her that the two of you were pretending to be walruses. This will not only come off as cute, but also will score you bonus points as it will make for an excellent Christmas card.

Scenario #2: Your buddy Roger buys your little girl a permanent marker as a joke. The joke will obviously wear off when your wife, who is taking a nap, eventually wakes up with a wall full of squiggly lines—and a mustache. What do you do?

Answer: Find every empty beer can in the house and strategically place them all around your sleeping wife. If you have to, chug a few cold ones to make sure you have enough. Draw a mustache on yourself then place the marker in her hand. When all the pieces are in place, fake a police siren to wake her up. When she gets up and asks you what happened, just shake your head in disgust and tell her that you can forgive her for drawing on the walls, but it'll take awhile for you to get over her "Mustache Party." [Also, remember this when Roger becomes a parent: "Hey kids, who wants a bucket of paint?"]

Scenario #3: The baby has dumped a load on the carpet because you (dad) were too busy using his diaper as a beer coozie. What do you do?

Answer: Quickly buy a dog, give it to your wife as a present when she gets home from work, and let her hug and kiss you for the generosity of finally giving her the dog she's been begging you to get for years. Moments later, pretend to notice the mess on the floor, scream at the dog, announce that you will not tolerate such behavior and immediately return it to the pet store.

I must have really aced that quiz, because when we finished Brittany was speechless. In fact, she even put a sticker on my shirt that said "I'm special." It was a really proud moment for me.

In retrospect, I'm not sure if shows like "Everybody Loves Raymond" offer the best parenting advice. The dad is always doing something stupid, and I don't want to be a stupid father. I want to raise the bar for dads everywhere. And I promise that I will.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got more highlighters to sniff.