May 25, 2007

No Cone-Heads Here ... 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.