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:




Knock over beer.

Curse again.


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.


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.