Showered With Affection

When something good happens to a male — something exciting, something worth celebrating, something wonderful — we have a particular way of marking the occasion: we go out for drinks, eat food that probably would have gored us to death just a few days prior, and call each other names that would make George Carlin think we’d gone too far as a way of showing affection.

Invite For BlogWomen have showers.

Bridal showers, baby showers… I would not be remotely surprised if next week Buzzfeed posted an article proclaiming Menopause Showers the next big thing. Having never attended a shower myself until this weekend, I wasn’t quite sure what the difference was between a “shower” and a “party.” Having joined Erin for a shower for our upcoming bundle of joy, it now seems obvious: showers require a terribly low ratio of Y to X chromosomes in order to officially qualify.

This shower has been in the works since mid-March. A few days before we made the official Facebook announcement of our pregnancy (without which our child would be unable to get a Social Security number and lose his eligibility to appear on The Price is Right someday) we went out to dinner with family and told them the joyous news. My sister Heather and sister-in-law Kayla were so joyous about the event they declared the shower their duty and began discussing prospective dates and themes before we even left the restaurant. As Erin and I had approximately 12 million things to figure out, we were more than happy to allow the two of them to handle this one.

Although Erin had a surprise wedding shower, we never entertained the idea of a surprise baby shower. For one thing, we needed to register for all of the things we needed (those registries are still active over at Babies R Us and Amazon, just saying), and for another thing, it seems unwise to startle a woman into premature labor. That said, while the party itself was planned ahead of time, that doesn’t mean there was NO room to surprise Erin that day. Her best friend Natalie, maid of honor at our wedding, lives in Pittsburgh. About two months before the wedding, she sent me a message telling me she was planning to come in for a visit, but she didn’t want Erin to know about it yet.

This was going to be fun.

I don’t often have secrets from Erin, and when I do I can usually grind the investigation to a halt by saying something like, “Don’t look in that box, that’s where I hid your Christmas present.” And she respects my request even as she proceeds to plead with me for the next month to tell her what it is. In this case, though, I had to hide messages from her. Some people might consider this far easier than hiding, for example, a coffeemaker, but when you suddenly snatch your phone from your wife’s hand because you’re afraid there may be a text message from her best friend on the notification screen, you need to be able to think fast.

FB_IMG_1501380397615Heather and Kayla joined the two of us in a conspiracy that easily could be the subject of a future Oliver Stone movie. Intrigue. Subterfuge. Accidentally going to the wrong Hilton. Natalie’s plan was to fly in on Friday for the Shower on Saturday, then stay with us for a couple of days. Fortunately, getting the house ready for a guest aroused little suspicion, as Erin assumed that people would be coming over after the Shower at Kayla’s house to help us carry in some of the larger gifts. “People” turned out to just be my father, but it was still no problem to get the house cleaner than it’s probably been since we moved in three years ago. In those three years, however, we’d never had a houseguest, so I was tasked with trying to figure out a way to get bedding for our futon without arousing Erin’s suspicion.

“Hey, these sheets are on clearance,” Erin said the next time we went to Walmart.

“Go ahead and put them in the cart,” I said.

I’m just saying, if the President hired me, a lot of those security problems would dry up immediately.

The biggest problem, as it turned out, came from Erin. She scheduled an ultrasound appointment for July 31, the last Monday before her teacher husband had to return to work for the new school year. Approximately twelve seconds later, I got a text from Natalie announcing that she’d booked a return flight on — and people who know how our luck with airlines has gone since Erin and I first met are already ahead of me on this one — July 31. Now I turned to the conspiracy to put our collective brains together and conjure a scheme that would trick Erin into rescheduling her appointment without arousing her suspicion.

“You’re a writer, you’ll think of something,” Natalie said.

I thought about just calling the medical center myself and requesting they change the appointment, but I wasn’t sure how to start the conversation. “Yes, I would like you to call my wife and tell her she needs to reschedule her ultrasound, but you can’t let her know the reason why.” It didn’t seem like a good approach. Even if I talked to someone sympathetic to my cause, I knew it would only take one person at the office who wasn’t in the loop or who didn’t understand what I was asking to call Erin up and blow the whole thing. If my experience with the Illuminati has taught me anything, it’s that the fewer people involved, the easier it is to keep a secret. (NOTE FROM THE ILLUSTRIOUS POTENTATE: Take that line out before you post this, you idiot.) No, I needed to think of a way to get her to do it herself.

The good news is that Erin prefers if I go to these appointments with her, so if I could conjure up my own excuse, she’d change it so I could still be there. I told her, then, that the English department at my school had requested a pre-school year curriculum meeting on the 31st, assuming that she wouldn’t be upset with me if I told her I had to do something for work.

Spoiler alert: I was wrong.

She got mad, asking me over and over why the other eight people in the department couldn’t change their schedules, going to her own job while still sore because I had to go to mine, and still having a thorn in her paw over the whole thing for the next few days. I kept my lips shut, knowing it would be worth it in the end.

On the day of the party, we walked into Kayla’s house while Natalie hid in my niece’s room, then snuck out behind Erin and said hello. Erin turned and casually said, “Hi,” taking about a beat and a half before she realized she was talking to someone she believed to be a thousand miles away and breaking into a gleeful hug. After Natalie cued her in to our shared deception I stood behind her, smiling, as she turned to me with regret and apology in her eyes.

“I’ll let it go this time, she said.

It’s the best I could have hoped for, honestly.

FB_IMG_1501361551967The shower itself — the first such I ever attended — was nice. Sure, the only other men there were my friend Jason, who came with his wife, and my cousin’s son Lucas, who didn’t have a babysitter available. Heather and Kayla chose a Star Wars theme for the shower, including invitations asking people to help welcome the “little Jedi,” a Yoda cake and Chewbacca cupcakes, and chocolates in the shape of Star Wars ships and aliens. Some of you, I know, may be frowning at me right now. “Blake,” you’re saying. “The Baby Shower should be your wife’s day. How can you take it over with such a nerdy theme?”

The people saying these naive things do not know my wife. My wife, who has already started making arrangements for Aunt Kayla to babysit the weekend The Last Jedi is released. My wife, who bought an Empire Strikes Back poster for our living room. My wife, who — and I swear to God this is NOT a joke — brought a little vial with some of her father’s ashes with us to see The Force Awakens.

I love Star Wars as much as the next American male, but the theme wasn’t for ME.

The food was great and the gifts were terribly thoughtful, including a few that were done specifically in memory of my mother. Mom’s cousin made a “daddy apron” for me, including pockets for a toy, snack, and spare diapers. My aunt crocheted an afghan using the same pattern Mom used for my sister’s son three years ago. A family friend gave us a book that my mom gave to her son when he was born. There were some damp eyes in the room as we read those cards, and I’m not ashamed to admit at least two of those were mine.

chest1My dad got us the stroller/car seat combo we needed. There were pacifiers and diapers and baby supplies, blankets and gift cards and cash. We got a lot of books, because people know us. We got a lot of superhero outfits and toys, because people know us. A few family members put in and got us a baby walker that looks like the Batmobile, because people know us and are awesome. And the coup de grace came from Jason, who wasn’t only at the party so that Lucas and I would have chest2someone to hang out with. He’d told us ahead of time that he and Andrea were going to make a toy chest for the kid, which we found very sweet, but we never expected what we saw when we unveiled it: a three-foot beauty on wheels. It was painted blue, decoupaged with comic book pages on all sides and stamped with a perfect Superman shield on the front. My eyes bugged out so far I thought they’d roll from my skull. Erin is going to have to remind me repeatedly that the chest is for the boy and not me.

When all was said and done, we had a great afternoon with people we care about and came home with a lot of things we really needed (although I feel I should point out once again, just for the sake of scientific completion, that the registries we made at  Babies R Us and Amazon are still active and people are more than welcome to go and browse and buy things and stuff). It’s one of those moments in a pregnancy — particularly a first pregnancy — where you’re reminded that you aren’t in it alone.

At least, not until it’s time to change a diaper.

You may have heard, Blake and Erin have a baby on the way, so he hopes you’ll allow him to remind you he’s got a bunch of books and short stories for sale on Amazon, and suggest you follow his author’s page on Facebook.

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The Baby Wants It

As I’ve mentioned here before, I am a high school English teacher, and today I’m going to tell you something about teachers you may not know. Teachers almost uniformly are fast eaters. It isn’t our fault. Think about how long you have to eat at your job. A half-hour? A full 60 minutes? In which time you may be able to run out and grab a bite, or eat right there in the office breakroom, or any number of perfectly reasonable activities that you can easily accomplish before it’s time to sit back down and get back to looking at Facebook until it’s time to quit.

As a teacher, we get 20 minutes. In that 20 minutes, we have to walk to the faculty lounge from wherever the hell on campus our classroom may happen to be, sometimes heat up our food, eat, and try to be back at our doors before the bell rings. That might not sound too bad, especially to you half-hour lunchers, but keep in mind that we have absolutely no flexibility. We can’t take our lunch a little early if we’re hungry or postpone it a little bit if we’re busy. Also, any little thing can eat into our lunch time — if a student wants to ask you a question, if they haven’t left your classroom yet because they can’t find their pencil, if an overly-friendly coworker strikes up a conversation while you’re jogging down the hall to the faculty room. These things can all make you have to wait to begin your lunchtime, but nothing can postpone the ending. It’s even worse in the lower grades, where teachers often have to walk the students to the cafeteria personally and meet them at the door when they finish. And if you need to go to the bathroom during this precious 20 minute sojourn? Let’s just say lunch can quickly become an object of fantasy, like the Golden Fleece, or a detergent that can get out ink stains.

The point is, fast eating is an ingrained habit, something that we can’t just turn off when we leave work. We tend to eat quickly even at home, in restaurants, and when sitting down with our significant others. My wife often looks at me during mealtime like I’ve unleashed a half-starved raccoon on the plate, and it’s not at all unusual for me to be completely finished while she’s still staring down five ounces of steak and enough potatoes to feed a small third world village.

milkshakeThere is only one exception to this black hole style of speed-eating, and that’s ice cream. For reasons neither of us can fathom, when Erin and I sit down to ice cream she always finishes hers well ahead of me. And I’d like to say that it’s only since she became pregnant that she stares longingly at my bowl and makes eyes at me after she’s finished hers, but we all know that would be a lie.

Since her pregnancy, however, she’s far more likely to blame things on the baby. She’ll peer into my bowl, hers sitting empty on the table, and say “You have ice cream. I have no ice cream. The baby has no ice cream.” And I will then glare at her and point to the freezer, because I love my wife and I would do almost anything for her and our child, but come on, ice cream.

PizzaI suppose I should be grateful that she hasn’t had any wild cravings, like pickles sprinkled with Pixie Stix, bacon and peanut butter sandwiches, or Pepsi Max. In fact, there have only been a few times since she’s been pregnant that she’s been overcome by a specific craving. She’s gone wild over a particular brand of chocolate milk, which I will not mention here by name because I’ve already paid the CEO’s salary for the quarter and I’m damn sure not going to give them any free advertising. Then there was the night when she was working late and I texted her to ask what she wanted for dinner. “Pizza,” was her reply. Well, that was simple enough. I actually really like making homemade pizza. I had dough, pizza sauce, cheese — I texted her back and asked her what toppings she wanted.

“No,” she said. “I need Pizza Hut pizza. Greasy Pizza Hut cheese pizza. And an order of cheesy bread. With marinara dipping sauce.”

“So, two cheese pizzas?” I texted back.

“Yes,” she said.

Some cravings, of course, have more to do with basic deprivation. Erin is something of a beer connoisseur. She likes to sample many different flavors and varieties. So she has a cabinet with several bottles that have been growing dusty since we found out she was pregnant. She recently posted photographs of them to a Facebook group of other aficionados, asking if they thought the beer would still be drinkable come October.

Oreo Dunkin Donuts MochaThe topper, as far as cravings go, came a few weeks ago when I discovered Oreo now has Dunkin Donuts Mocha-flavored cookies. Now I’m something of an Oreo connoisseur. I like to sample many different flavors and varieties. So I brought a pack home for us to try. I opened it and Erin took a cookie. Then she took another one. Then another. Pretty soon I was being reminded of Garfield on lasagna day, when his hands move so fast that Jim Davis’s ghost artist doesn’t even have to draw them, and when I blinked, half the pack was gone. Erin looked up at me, blushing.

“I haven’t had coffee since January,” she explained.

I told her it was okay. Clearly, the baby wanted the cookies.

Over the course of her pregnancy, a few of the other things Erin has told me I should do or give her because “the baby wants it” includes — but is not limited to — the following:

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut diagonally
  • Nutty Buddy bars
  • Swiss rolls
  • Asparagus
  • Salmon
  • Reece’s Big Cups with Reece’s Pieces inside of them
  • Smaller, less satisfying Reece’s cups, also with Reece’s Pieces inside of them
  • Pineapple
  • Watermelon
  • Pineapple and Watermelon
  • Blueberry sausage patties from Whole Foods
  • All-you-can-eat crawfish at the Seafood Pot
  • For Mommy to wear Daddy’s Justice League t-shirt because it’s big and comfortable
  • For me to do the dishes even though it was her turn
  • For me to do all of the driving everywhere, any time we are in the car together, even when it’s her car
  • To pull my sock halfway off my foot — not enough for it to come off, but enough to irritate the hell out of me
  • For her to watch the teaser trailer for The Dark Tower by herself before I got home from work, even though I waited all day for her when the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer came out, and don’t you think I’ve forgotten that

And so forth.

The thing is, I’ve complied with literally every one of the above requests. Because she’s pregnant and I know she gets tired and worn out easily, I know it’s not easy for her to be on her feet long enough to wash the dishes or bend over and empty out the washing machine. Because I know that she’s got all of the same emotional changes I have that come with waiting to become a parent, and on top of that, she’s got a million physical changes to contend with that I couldn’t possibly understand.

And mostly, because I love her. So I’ll do what I can for her.

Except for the ice cream. Especially if it’s Blue Bell’s Groom’s Cake flavor, because that stuff is worth staring down a pregnant woman over.

You’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

You may have heard, Blake and Erin have a baby on the way, so he hopes you’ll allow him to remind you he’s got all these books and short stories for sale on Amazon, and suggest you follow his author’s page on Facebook.

It’s All Symptomatic

It is, as I write this, a week after the workshop I mentioned in my last post. It’s still June, and I’m still out of school for the summer. This does not, of course, mean that teachers do nothing in the summer. Aside from the aforementioned workshop, we do planning, reading, research, some take or teach summer classes… teachers are busy. The great thing about summer, though, is that unlike during the school year, we don’t usually have to get up ridiculously early in the morning to do these things. Summer’s greatest benefit, in my opinion, is the chance to sleep in.

You lose this chance when your wife wakes up at 6:30 shouting about the pain in her leg.

Since I’m not going to come back to this just yet, I’m going to steal a page from Douglas Adams and spare you the suspense: it was a Charlie Horse — painful, but not really serious. But it falls into a category of phenomena I am becoming more and more familiar with: pregnancy symptoms they don’t show you on TV.

As with a lot of things, like murder investigations and mailing an angry letter to your boss only to later feel regret and break into his office to intercept it, those of us who have never been pregnant have a kind of skewed vision of what it’s like based on popular media. We know about weight gain and back pain, because it’s easy to show that on TV. We know about swollen feet and a compulsion to eat pickles and ice cream, because somewhere along the line these became punchlines. But there are so many things that they don’t mention.

A prime example. The farting. Oh, the farting.

Erin reads all of these before I post them, so please be assured that anything appearing here has met with AND SHE IS A WONDERFUL PERSON THAT YOU ARE LUCKY TO BE MARRIED TO her approval, so she knows I’m sharing this. Guys. Growing a child in your body creates lots and lots of gas. It’s the sheer volume that surprises me, honestly.I just didn’t expect to spend nine months sleeping next to a whoopie cushion. Frankly, I’m surprised that this hasn’t become more well-known, what with the enduring popularity of fart jokes in popular media. I understand why Lucille Ball wasn’t farting up a storm on TV in the 1950s, but times have changed. You’d think it would at least have been the centerpiece of an Adam Sandler movie by now.

hand2
Pictured: Pregnancy

 

On a less comedic note, did you know that many pregnant women develop carpal tunnel syndrome? Erin didn’t know this either, until her hands began alternately aching and going numb with no explanation. And while it’s cute when she looks at me sheepishly and asks me to open her chocolate milk for her, I know it causes her actual pain, so I feel bad for her. We got her some braces for her wrists, which help somewhat, but the only painkiller suggested for pregnant women is Tylenol, which many of you will know better as “That One That Doesn’t Really Work That Well.” It may be a gender stereotype, but I have become the Chief Jar Opener of our household at least until September.

Pregnant women also have much greater sinus congestion, as it turns out. Erin has sounded like she has a cold pretty much non-stop since February, and in the last couple of weeks, she has evidently decided to try to out-snore me. I have a pretty prodigious growl at times, I know, and I’ve always felt guilty when she’s had to wake me up to try to get me to stop. Which is why, most of the time she starts snoring, I just let it go. But when I was away in a hotel for a week for my teaching workshop, I frequently would wake up at night wondering why there no longer appeared to be construction equipment outside the window.

But back to this morning. Erin woke up shouting, and for a moment, I panicked. All I knew was that she was in pain, and that terrified me. The last time she woke me up shouting it turned out she had a kidney stone. This time she had something a lot more important in there, and unlike the kidney stone, it’s something we don’t want coming out just yet. But through the shouting, I managed to figure out the pain was in her leg and it was, in fact, a Charlie Horse. But unlike any such Charlie Horse I’ve ever had, hers apparently just kept coming.

“Do something!” she yelled. I didn’t know what to say. Any time I’ve had a Charlie Horse the only thing I could do was wait it out, but I knew if I said anything like that I was risking a punch in the face. So I did the only thing I could think of: I Googled it.

I found a page that helpfully informed me that pregnant women are at greater risk for Charlie Horses (got it, thanks), and suggested massaging the area. I reached over and touched her leg.

And she yelled at me again. “DON’T TOUCH IT!” were the exact words of my tender, loving wife.

So instead I pulled back and sat there, dumbfounded, while she kept yelling at her leg. After a couple of helpless minutes like this, she said, “I thought you were Googling it!”

“I DID,” I said. “It said to massage the area!”

“Then why didn’t you?”

“BECAUSE YOU YELLED AT ME!”

She was a little calmer now, so she put her leg out and I finally started to rub it. After a minute or two, she admitted it was feeling better. Since then she’s been apologizing to me, not that she really needs to. It was a bad moment, but it wasn’t her fault. I just felt awful because I couldn’t help her faster.

“I’m sorry I woke you up,” she said.

“That’s all right,” I told her.

“You’re going to write about this, aren’t you?”

“Maybe.”

“Go back to sleep.”

“Okay.”

And I lay back down, but I’d already been riled up a little bit, what with the yelling and the panic and all. So going back to sleep, I knew, was something that would take a while. And I was right. In fact, Erin was deeply back into her snoring while I just lay next to her, mentally beginning to compose what you just read.

Remember, guys, pregnancy is a beautiful thing.

You may have heard, Blake and Erin have a baby on the way, so he hopes you’ll allow him to remind you he’s got all these books and short stories for sale on Amazon, and suggest you follow his author’s page on Facebook.