March 29, 2007

What Doesn’t Kill You ...

Babies have many needs. They need a loving family. They need an ample amount of sleep. They need to be rocked, fed, changed and burped. And, according to an online checklist, they also need “neck wings,” which I can only imagine come in handy when you’re too lazy to get up from the couch to pass the baby off to grandma.

Welcome to the world of baby registering.

At precisely 1:04 p.m. this past Monday, Brittany and I set foot in Babies “R” Us, the New York Yankees of everything created for, relating to and resembling babies. At 1:05, I was in a dead sprint for my car. Trust me, you’ve never feared for your life until you see an entire corral of hormonal pregnant women. Each one eyeballs you like a wild boar, ready to sink her teeth into your flesh; ready to tear you apart, limb from limb; ready to destroy every ounce of manhood you have left—all while totting two binkies and a potty seat.

If it wasn’t for Brittany (and her surprisingly strong headlock-grip), I would have been at home in front of my big screen, eating Doritos and sipping on an ice cold Zima. Instead, I sat uncomfortably at the customer service desk in front of Matilda, the Registering Czar. Not two chairs from me was another beaten dad-to-be, donning a ripped shirt and bruised ego. He gave me a sympathetic nod before being dragged off by his pregnant wife.

That man must be having twins.

Finally, with a list in one hand and a non-lethal scanning gun in the other, we began registering. It started off light and easy—monitors, outlet covers, Baby On Board bumper stickers—and took only a few minutes to register our first 10 items. Next, we progressed to bibs sporting witty phrases like “Don’t Wake Me … I’ll Wake You” and “I’m The Boss Now” and “If My Mommy Loved Me She’d Feed Me Bacon.” Apparently there are other cruel mothers in this world.

Aisle after aisle, scan after scan, I started realizing that this wasn’t nearly as unpleasant as I had imagined. In fact, I kind of enjoyed it. I put the scanner through my belt loop and acted like a cowboy in the old west, hunting lions, tigers and cookie monsters (Brittany points out that cowboys didn’t hunt any of these things—I guess she’s also smarter than a 5th grader).

As we turned the corner, I saw what appeared to be an oversized lunchbox with a blow horn in it. Seemed like a pretty odd combination. Since I didn’t know what it was or how it helped the baby, I asked.

“Hey hun,” I said to my lovely wife. “What’s this contraption?”

“That?” she said matter-of-factly. “Oh, that’s a breast pump.”

Cowboy fantasy is over. Resume dead sprint to the car.

How could a store full of cuddly animals, Bert & Ernie bowls and Spider-man sippy cups have such pornographic equipment? Shouldn’t this mega emporium built for toddlers be rated G? Shouldn’t there be a special room for pumps with a sign that says “Mothers Only”? Shouldn’t there be a “3rd Rock From The Sun” fan site? Unfortunately you won’t like the answer to any of these questions.

After several panic attacks, I calmed down. It was partially because I came to my senses, but mostly because of the evil eye I was receiving from Matilda. We continued registering for the next 3 hours, picking out diaper garbage cans, strollers and toys. When all was said and done, we had identified more than 70 items we needed for BK3. My brain could take no more. Neither could Brittany’s feet.

As we left Babies “R” Us and headed for the car, I couldn’t help but think about the millions of dads that had gone through this before me. They all survived and, apparently, so did I. This nightmare must have been a right of passage that was meant to make me stronger—and it did. In some ways, I’m thankful I got to take part in baby registering.

“Oh crap,” Brittany said. “We forgot the neck wings.”

God hates me.

March 23, 2007

Will They Or Won't They ...

There comes a point in every pregnancy (around 20 weeks or so) where the parents-to-be have to make one very important decision: Will they or won’t they find out the sex of the baby? Everyone wants to know. In fact, it’s the second most common question I receive after “How on Earth did you convince her to marry you?” and it’s one Brittany and I have struggled with for months. This is partly due to our over-analyzing of all decisions before committing to them, but mostly it’s due to the fact that, deep down, Brittany loves it when I’m miserable.

Recently, the debate on this has heated up. Next week hails Sonogram Monday—our first (and only) opportunity before the child is born to find out if we’re having a little slugger or a little ballerina—and Brittany and I are split right down the middle on what to do. Obviously there are two schools of thought on this, and I’d like to present both to you without bias so you can develop an informed opinion of what we should do.

School #1: We Should Find Out. This school of thought helps you plan accordingly with names, clothes, softball positions, etc. You’re no longer hand-tied to greens and yellows, and can build a baby room based on cool themes like trucks or dragonflies instead of decorating it in fruit. As a mother, it helps you feel more connected to the child. As a father, it lets you know whether you’ll need a baseball bat to teach your son how to hit homers or a cheerleading baton to mercilessly beat any boy that so much as winks at your little princess.

The only con to this argument is that people may be over aggressive in their purchases, leaving you no neutral clothes for any future children you may have. Then again, all your children may be the same gender, so it wouldn’t really matter. Which bring us to …

School #2: We Should Keep It A Surprise. This school thought, of course, has the very important element of being THE DUMBEST SCHOOL OF THOUGHT I’VE EVER HEARD!

By now you’ve probably guessed which side of the fence I fall on—the logical, sensible side where you learn the sex of your baby—and which one Brittany falls on—the wrong side. I really don’t understand why anyone would wait nine months for an answer to a question that’s attainable at four. To put this in perspective, I like to think of it in these terms: Sure, you could wait until Christmas to ask for “Gilmore Girls” Season 1 on DVD, but why would you when, with a quick trip to Target, you could be watching it this Saturday night?

This argument seems to be ringing hallow around my house, though. For some insane reason, Brittany thinks that her opinion is more important than mine. She brings up senseless points like she is carrying the baby and she is dealing with constant back pain and she is going to have to push the baby out of her fun zone. She says all of this without taking into consideration that she is driving me crazy.

So I spent a few days doing some soul searching and trying to find a middle ground. I offered to have the doctor tell me only, so she would still be surprised. This was met with a welcoming “No way, Mr. Blabbermouth.” I even offered to do laundry for a year, though that deal fell through when I, not knowing what the washing machine looked like, attempted to shove our clothes into the hot-water heater.

That slick move officially lowered my voting power to 49%, just shy of what is needed to win a decision in our house.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, even though I don’t agree, she does have a point. While a dad’s role is important, it’s not nearly as vital as mom’s. So far, Brittany has had to do all the hard work. She’s sacrificed many things—her energy, her figure, her dream of becoming a pole dancer—all while keeping up with her job and home life. And I admire that.

If this gift is something that means that much to her, I can suck it up for the next 4 months. Sure, it’ll be tough, but I can do it. After all, I love her. And, when the big day comes and Brittany’s ready to push, I hope the doctor looks up at both of us and relays the news I’ve been dying to hear since we passed on finding out the gender the first time:

“Oh my god, this baby has a giant head!”

Payback is hell, love. Payback is hell.

March 15, 2007

Stuffed Animals ...

Lately I’ve been in a funk. Why? Brittany and I used to be partiers. On any given night we’d paint the town Cincinnati Red. We’d stay up to all hours, hanging out with friends, talking philosophically and trying to answer the one question that’s perplexed man since the beginning of eternity: Why is your sergeant toe bigger than your captain?

Recently, though, I’ve come to the realization that our reckless lifestyle has come to an end. No more late nights. No more excessive drinking. No more Bringing Sexy Back with Justin Timberlake. Everything bad for us must go.

When did that happen?

While our wild sides have been dying slow, painful deaths for years, they didn’t become fully extinct until this past Saturday when, at precisely 11:45 p.m., we left Lily Shoemaker’s very first birthday party and saw our future. Now, make no mistake, we had a great time. In fact, it was probably the best party we’ve been to in the past year. But that’s exactly my point: When was the last time you walked away happy from a party where the guest of honor had a bedtime and a load in her pants?

It’s a scientific fact that everyone eventually transitions from fun-loving, bar-hopping party animal to boring, early-rising, mortgage-paying adult. This decline typically starts when you’re on the wrong side of 25 and, if my data is correct, only gets worse as time moves on. You trade in your backwards ball cap for a comb over. You tell your good buddy Captain Crunch that he’s no longer welcome in your house, and bring in your new life-ling partner, Raisin Bran. If that’s not enough, you have to listen to the neighborhood kids call you “sir.” SIR!

There’s not much more humbling than that.

When we got home on Saturday night I felt less like a party animal and more like a stuffed animal. I was tired and sleepy. I sat there on my bed, lifelessly staring at the blank television screen. All I really wanted was for Brittany to come in, give me a hug and tell me that, no matter how old we get, we’ll still be the life of the party. Instead, she plopped into bed, complained that I was “on her side” and told me to get my “pickle breath” out of her face. I love her so much.

The next morning I got to thinking: Why does becoming old and boring have to be a bad thing? Every change in my life thus far has been a success—going away to college, getting married, switching from the high-five to the rock-bump. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I actually enjoy parties at friends’ houses where there’s no loud music and plenty of seating. I like having a chance to just sit back and chat with my friends. I like coming home and not smelling like bar—that nice combination of beer, smoke, sweat and urine. I like getting to bed early, turning on “Saturday Night Live,” then immediately coming to my senses and flipping the channel to anything but “Saturday Night Live.” Most important, I like not feeling bad about any of this.

The part of my brain that used to focus on all-night keggers and late night trips to White Castle blew a fuse. The replacement parts include kids—my kids—sitting in their beanbag chairs, reaching into that family-size bowl of popcorn, chuckling while their mother complains that we’ve rented Uncle Buck for the 20th time. (Though, if she was really counting, she’d know it was the 21st).

It may not be everyone’s dream, but it’s my dream. Excluding Uncle Buck, it’s Brittany’s dream, too. If it takes us losing our edge and becoming boring, so be it. I’ve accepted it. Brittany has accepted it too.

Now, if I could only get her to accept my pickle breath …

March 9, 2007

Snoogle Up ...

Everyone suffers from one form of fear or another. Some are afraid of bears. Others are afraid of ghosts. I, myself, am terrified of this photo of David Hasselhoff (click here). But even more terrifying than any of those is the idea of being replaced.

Earlier this week, I was replaced.

After many weeks of Brittany complaining about discomfort and pain in some imaginary body part she calls her “sciatic” nerve, I finally cracked and bought her a Snoogle. If you’re unfamiliar with this product, no need to worry—your wife still loves you. If you do know what it is, you’re welcome to join my newly created support group called Fathers Against The Advancement of SnoogleS, or F.A.T.A.S.S. for short.

We meet on Tuesdays.

The Snoogle is a giant pillow, but not just any ordinary giant pillow. It’s the Rolls Royce of bedroom attire. Designed especially for (crazy) pregnant women, the Snoogle is nearly 8 feet in length with curves at both ends. It conforms around the body, offering head, neck, back and leg support. If that’s not enough, it’s softer on your skin than a roll of Charmin toilet paper.

While I don’t have the precise numbers in front of me, I think it’s safe to assume that the Snoogle is the number one cause of divorce in this country. Not that long ago, Brittany used to dote on me. A kiss here, a hug there. We’d hold hands for no real reason and spend hours laying in bed, embracing each other. Now, I’m lucky if she burps in my general direction.

Her love of this pillow is kind of creepy, if you ask me. She treats “Rico”—that’s right, she named it—like he’s part of the family. She bought him a holiday sweater, wrote him a poem and, before she left for work yesterday morning, I could swear she gave him a kiss goodbye. To make matters worse, my side of the bed has been reduced to about a quarter of an inch.

I’m generally not an insecure person, but when your wife has you run out because “Rico” had a hankering for Taco Bell, you begin to feel a little undervalued. It’s understandable that she prefers not to have alcohol around the house since she can’t drink. I can also accept that the hair on her legs is currently long enough to braid. But I draw the line at getting dinner for pillow boyfriends.

If there’s one saving grace to having this monstrosity in the bed, it’s this: Brittany went from tossing and turning and groaning and whining throughout the night to sleeping soundly without a peep. It was great for her because she no longer lay in pain. It was great for me because I didn’t have to smother her with a pillow.

In the end, I guess it’s a small price to pay for the woman I love. I don’t mind cutting her some slack; after all, she is carrying my baby. If a Snoogle makes her happy, then it makes me happy too. Plus, I figure I can parlay this into getting something I desperately want, even if she’s been against it since day one.

Hasselhoff Klems … has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

March 1, 2007

Smarter Than a 5th Grader …

When I was real little, I remember thinking that my folks were the smartest people in the world. They could read. They could write. They were potty trained. It was everything I aspired to be. Of course, I abandoned this theory in high school and adopted one that made much more sense: I am the smartest person in the world.

Jeff Foxworthy seems to disagree.

Last night I was channel surfing and landed on this new FOX show, “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” (hosted by Mr. Foxworthy). The brilliant premise: Contestants (adults) must correctly answer questions taken directly from the textbooks of first-through-fifth graders to win money. If that’s not enough, a group of 5th graders openly mock the contestant for wrong answers. And, if you walk away with less than the $1 million grand prize, you must say, “I am not smarter than a 5th grader.”

God I love television.

After my initial euphoria, I realized how embarrassing it would be to get outsmarted by kids—especially ones who have celebrated fewer birthdays than my driver’s license. I’ve always felt bad for tykes whose parents’ were morons, but luckily for BK3 I’m brilliant. Or am I? What if I’m not as smart as I advertise? What if I had been kidding myself? What if my child has a stupid parent? BK3’s entire future rests in my hands, so I must find out.

Enter Mr. Foxworthy and my new favorite game show. I figure it should take only five questions. If I get them all correct, there’s nothing to worry about. If I miss even one, BK3 should prepare for a budding career as 40-year-old who lives with his parents.

Game on.

First question: When you mix equal amounts of red and yellow paint, what color do you get?

That’s an easy one. Orange.

Survey says: Brian the Brain 1, Brian the Bozo 0

Second question: What country has the longest border with the U.S.?

Now they’re lobbing them up there, and I’m swinging for the fences. Canada.

Survey says: Brian the Brain 2, Brian the Bozo 0 (Note: Contestant says Mexico. Contestant may not be smarter than Play-Doh—the jury is still out.)

Third question: In astronomy, what star is closest to Earth?

I know what you’re thinking—George Clooney, right? Well you would be wrong, my friend, as the star closest to Earth is The Sun.

Survey says: Brian the Brain 3, Brian the Bozo 0 (BOOYAH!)

Fourth question: True or False: Fiction books are not assigned numbers in the Dewey Decimal system.

The Dewey Decimal system still exists? I bet Brittany’s librarian sister Allison knows this. Of course, she probably wouldn’t help me after the whole “You’re the second favorite aunt” debacle of ‘06. I think both use numbers, so I’m going to say False.

Survey says: Brian the Brain 4, Brian the Bozo 0

Fifth, and final, Question: How many sides are there on a trapezoid?

A trapezoid? What the hell is a trapezoid? The fate of my child rests on a shape? Take a deep breath. Let’s examine what we do know: An octagon has eight sides. A hexagon has six sides. Four sides is called a square. Wait a minute! What’s the funny looking square that’s shaped like a hat? It’s a trapezoid! Two parallel, two nonparallel. It’s Four, the correct answer is Four!

Survey says: Brian the Brain 5, Brian the Bozo 0

Turns out I am a genius—at least, a genius on a 5th-grade level. Every dad hopes to teach his child everything he knows to help him (or her) build a better life. That’s exactly what I intend to—teach BK3 about the lessons of life, the value of love and, most important, the dimensions of a trapezoid.