February 22, 2007

Our Tiny Dancer …

Last time we visited the doctor (week 15), he told us that Brittany could start feeling movement at any time. It’s exciting news to hear, considering up until this point the baby has essentially been about as active as a thumbtack. But once you get this type of information you spend every waking second wondering when and where the baby is going to strike.

So like any self-respecting, good-hearted, good-looking father-to-be would, I began poking Brittany’s belly. Not hard, but just hard enough to let the baby know that we’re here and waiting. After all, this freeloader has already cost us several hundred dollars in doctor bills, forced us to keep weird combinations of food around the house and increased the level of whining of one of the two people who live at Casa De Klems (I won’t name names).

Two weeks of this poking passed and nothing. Zilch. Nada. Now I don’t remember much about being a fetus, but I’m 99-percent positive that I spent the majority of that time eating, growing and chicken dancing. In fact, I think my mom has pictures.

But this little booger hadn’t even been born yet and was already disobeying my every command. I said, “kick,” but no kick. I said “wiggle,” but no wiggle. I said, “O-H,” but no “I-O.” This kid’s greatest trait to date was the ability to stay still, be lazy and irritate me. Obviously he (or she) got those genes from his mother.

When we weren’t getting the results we wanted, we thought maybe Brittany didn’t know what a kick felt like. I mean, it’s not like it’s ever happened before. So she called a few friends who had gone through the process. Most folks said the first few times feel like butterflies swirling around in your belly, which was interesting. (Note to self: Brittany needs to find new friends who don’t eat butterflies.) Everyone else gave us the typical, “Oh, you’ll know” response, which was about as useful as a foot fungus.

I was beginning to think that our kid was never going to move. Then, one fateful Wednesday afternoon while I was at work, I received an important e-mail that would brighten my mood and alter the rest of my day:

“Hey dude, did you know there are donuts in the break room?—Chuck.”

What? I really like donuts.

Anyway, later that night, when I got home, I received a call from Brittany.

“I feel the baby kicking! I feel the baby kicking!”

It turns out that on her drive home from work, she casually flipped on the radio and WHAM—the baby started dancing. How did she know? For three reasons: 1) She had never felt anything like it before; 2) the movement was constant and 3) the band was Green Day—and any child of mine would choose Green Day as its first dance. Now it wasn’t all roses, as Brittany feared that they baby was moshing into her organs. In fact, she claims to have heard her typically polite spleen yell out, “Hey kid, watch those elbows.”

For days I stuck to Brittany like glue with my hand on her belly, but I couldn’t feel anything. I accompanied her everywhere—the grocery store, the library, the bathroom—and there was no movement. Finally, one morning as we laid in bed, the baby got restless. I placed my hand just below my wife’s belly button and there it was: a kick. It was faint and quick, but it was there. With that, fatherhood seemed less like idea and more like a reality.

I was grateful I got to share in that moment. I was also grateful that this excitement caused Brittany to overlook the fact that her shirt was wide open. Not many mornings start out that perfect. If the baby could talk, I’m sure he would agree.

He’d also be saying “I-O.”

February 15, 2007

My Growth Spurt ...

Most days all I ever think about are my wife, lunch and whether or not on-base percentage is a better indicator of talent than batting average. But today was different. Today I cleaned the bathtub. I’m not sure if it was the hard labor of scrubbing grout with a toothbrush or the three plus hours I spent in a small, enclosed room breathing in chemicals, but an idea crossed my brain that was never there before: I’m not a kid anymore.

Sure, after 27-plus years you’d think I’d take this news fairly well, but I didn’t. I’m used to being a kid. Hell, I’m good at it. There’s proof everywhere. At Thanksgiving, I’m the life of the party at the kids’ table. I like my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into triangles (not squares). Plus, I can’t pass up a good game of hide-and-go-seek. For example:

Brian: “What a slow day.”

Brittany: “Why don’t we clean the house?”

Brian hides.

Now I knew this day was coming—after all, I have a job, a house and, oh yeah, a wife. But none of those monumental moments forced me into adulthood. Having a baby forced me into adulthood. It made me consider things that I’ve never considered before, like does my car have a high safety-rating or do I live in a good school district or which nickname is cooler: Beefcake or Chunky Monkey? This vital information—while trivial just a few short months ago—now consumes my life.

So, the real question here is: How do I successfully transition into adulthood without losing the edge that’s made me popular in many, many goofball circles? Do I wear more ties? Eat more veggies? Stop basing all my important decisions on an up-or-down vote by my Reds bobblehead collection? These are hardly appealing options, so I developed a six-step program to help myself (and all eventual fathers) become an adult:

Step one: Get rid of the Homer Simpson slippers.

Step two: Learn to successfully set the alarm clock so you’re not late for work.

Step three: No, really, get rid of the Homer slippers.

Step four: Stop believing in such childish figures as the Dish Fairy, Laundry Claus and other cleaning mascots.*

Step five: If you don’t take off those Homer slippers and trash them, I’m going to wrestle you down, duct tape you to the floor and make you watch a continuous loop of “The View.”

Step six: Acceptance.

With this basic plan in place, I started my transition. I went through closets and got rid of old silly posters. I trashed all my CDs with explicit lyrics, including Eminem, 2 Live Crew and “Weird” Al Yankovic. There was only one thing left to do. As I stared Homer in the face and said my goodbyes, I started to get choked up. I could swear I saw him shed a tear (although there’s also the small possibility it may have been foot sweat). I just couldn’t throw out such a close friend.

Then it hit me harder than a Brittany elbow in the middle of the night. Just because I no longer can be childish doesn’t mean that I can’t be immature from time to time. Most men are. I know many of you think there’s no difference between the two, but there is and it’s distinct: Being immature is laughing at fart jokes; being childish is telling fart jokes.

With this realization, I decided Homer and his buddy (left-foot Homer) could stay. In fact, everything could stay. Growing up isn’t about giving up the past, it’s about rising to the challenge of the future. I’m not sure if I hit a growth spurt or if the chemical buzz was wearing off, but I knew I was going to be OK. Even if I’m not a kid anymore, it doesn’t mean I can’t still cut my PB&J sandwiches into triangles—it just means that I’ll have to plan ahead and cut enough triangles for my entire family.

And if you take one thing away from this column, let it be this: On-base percentage is a MUCH better indicator of baseball talent than batting average.

* I can’t take credit for “The Dish Fairy” nor “Laundry Claus,” as both were the brainchild of the Alex “The Authority Guru” Weber. But thanks, Al, for making them an important part of my life.

February 9, 2007

Lying is Fun ...

Once the doctor confirmed our pregnancy, we decided that it would be best to wait until Christmas to spring the news on family and friends. After all, Christmas is a time of love, sharing and excitement. It also signifies the birth of God’s greatest creation—the Christmas carol, which must be sung out of tune and at excessive volumes. Luckily, my family has mastered this art.

But that meant three more weeks of keeping it secret. THREE FULL WEEKS! The only thing I can keep for three weeks is a sink full of dirty dishes. Brittany pointed out that we kept it quiet the four weeks leading up to the doctor visit, but that was different. We weren’t sure. There was no real proof. For all we knew she just had gas. Now we had a picture—undeniable evidence.

If it were up to me, I would have started making phone calls immediately, but Brittany swore me to secrecy. She even made me pinky swear on it. Pinky Swear! For those unfamiliar with the ritual, all that’s important to remember is that if you break the Pinky Swear you’re out of the secret loop forever. (This rule holds true everywhere, except in Texas where they substitute “out of the secret loop” with “cutting off your giblets.”)

For the next few weeks I kept my mouth shut, which was harder than pronouncing “indubitably.” Some people made jokes about us getting pregnant, but that’s pretty standard when they’ve known you as a couple for nearly a decade. Other people (my dad) offered us a bribe of collectable Matchbox cars for a grandchild. And a few others (Brittany’s sister Mel) threatened to remove Brittany from her wedding party if she didn’t have a baby-belly come September.

Not that we were feeling any pressure.

Quickly, it dawned on me that in order to keep folks from finding out we were going to have to lie. I mean, people would start to wonder why Brittany couldn’t play soccer anymore. They’d definitely question why her boobs were getting bigger. And, of course, she’d show the telltale sign that’s unavoidable to every pregnant woman on the planet—no alcohol. Now I’m sure several of you will say, “A glass of wine is good for the baby,” but that kind of irresponsible attitude is what leads so many good kids to ABA—Alcoholic Babies Anonymous.

We spent a full night coming up with lies, excuses and trickery. Soccer was erased by a “stomach bug” caused by “bad Chinese food.” The boobs were hidden by thick sweaters. We couldn’t go out because we had to save money for a “dining room set.” These were all reasonable, acceptable excuses that people bought hook, line and sinker.

Alcohol, on the other hand, required a more delicate and complex approach.

My wife is no lush, but she does enjoy the occasional beer when we’re out at the bar or with dinner or for breakfast, and it’d be extremely unusual of her not to order at least one. With that in mind, we developed two plans to get around key situations.

Scenario #1: Our weekly post-volleyball BW3 meal with her family. I would leave the gym early, beat everyone to the bar and order three nonalcoholic beers, which I would sneakily pour into two tall glasses. It was genius and worked like a charm. It was also the nastiest thing I’ve ever tasted.

Scenario #2: Out with friends at Mulligan’s Pub. It’s impossible to pour fakes beers into glasses in a crowd, so I’d order two regular beers and give one to Brittany. While she sat in the corner pretending to casually “sip,” I chugged mine. “Can you hold my drink while I hit the restroom,” I’d say. When I returned, we pulled the old switcharoo and no one was the wiser. The problem with this plan, though, is that I have very generous friends who often buy rounds. Four hours and 14 beers later (seven by their count), I was falling down, slurring my speech and earning the nickname “lightweight,” not to mention the hangover that awaited me.

Ah, the tough sacrifices parents make for their children.

By the time Christmas rolled around, the gland in my body that produced lying-enzymes had grown to an impressive 14 pounds. I had mastered a skill that, once the holidays were over, was going to be rendered useless. After all, I hate lying to people and refuse to ever do it again.

“What’s that, dear? Oh no, you’re TOTALLY looking skinny.”

(Well, never do it again starting tomorrow.)

February 1, 2007

Our Tiny Blob ...

Going to your regular doctor is typically one of the most horrifying experiences of your life. He’ll tell you you’re overweight. He’ll tell you your cholesterol is too high. He’ll tell you that Jessica Simpson is actually intelligent, ruining your entire belief structure and crushing your false sense of superiority. If that’s not enough, he’ll charge you for it. Not much is worse.

Going to the OB/GYN is worse.

It was time for our first baby checkup, the one where someone with a medical degree and $100,000 worth of college loans will confirm what we already learned from a $3 stick. When we first arrived, I couldn’t help but notice the other guys sitting in the office’s lounge, waiting for their wives to return. Each one was slouched in his chair with a similar bored look on his face. I hadn’t seen a room full of guys this depressed since the third time they cancelled “Family Guy.”

I joined the club and sat down on what had to be the world’s second most uncomfortable chair, while Brittany moseyed up to the desk to fill out the paperwork. Looking for something to occupy my time, I rummaged through a pile of magazines. The pickings were slim, but I eventually settled on a Teen People from 1999. Brittany Spears was on top of the world, people were going nutty for “Star Wars: Phantom Menace” and everyone was afraid of Y2K.

And some people think history is boring.

As Brittany finished the forms, a nurse popped her head out and called her name. We both went back into the office, as I wanted to be a part of the experience. The nurse weighed her and asked her to pee in a cup—standard nurse moves—and then showed us to our room. It was there that I finally saw the world’s most uncomfortable chair. I’m sure it has a technical name, but I’m going to call it the Lay-Z-Girl.

So Brittany dropped her pants and hopped up in the Lay-Z-Girl. Suddenly, a man with perfect hair, a chiseled chin and a body that would make Brad Pitt jealous walked into the room. Was this her doctor? Was this the guy she let poke around inside her fun zone? Was it my imagination, or did his smile actually twinkle?

He introduced himself as Dr. … something. I would have listened, but I was too busy thinking about how this man was about to defile my wife. No matter how I spun it in my head, this just didn’t seem right. When a woman pays a guy to poke around down there, it’s called a checkup. When a man pays a woman, it’s called prostitution.

After several minutes of prodding, examining and small talk, he finished up by using the phrase—and I am not making this up—“Lookin’ good down there.” I’d say this was my most angry moment of the day but it wasn’t; that would come later when I had to pay the bill.

Just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, he led us to a room with a do-hickey that looked eerily similar to the small black-and-white television my parents once owned. He opened a jar and rubbed what looked to be hair gel on Brittany’s tummy, asked her to “unbutton her pants” and whipped out a microphone-shaped rod.

That was it. I couldn’t take it anymore. I rolled up my sleeve and prepared to punch him in his twinkling teeth …

But then I saw it. Right there on the screen. The round tiny blob of white that was the beginnings of our child. It was the most amazing tiny blob of white I had ever seen. Years from now scientists may dispute this, but for that moment—that very special moment—I could swear the blob was wearing a Cincinnati Reds jersey.

With that sonogram, all had been forgiven. The entire drive home all I could think about was how much I’m going to love this child, even more than I love pizza. That’s right, folks … even more than pizza. And, if it comes out a left-handed boy who can throw 98 miles per hour, it’ll move to the top of the list—ahead of bacon.