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.

A sound byte for June

foray
June Foray, 1917-2017

It’s been a rough summer for genre fans. Adam West — the first Batman for so many — passed away. We lost George Romero, who made zombies what they are today. Two women who helped make Marvel Comics what it is — Joan Lee and Flo Steinberg — died within weeks of one another. Then last night, as I was going to bed, word broke of the one that — to me — is the harshest blow of all. June Foray died at the age of 99.

Most of you, I think, probably recognized the name as soon as you read it. If you don’t recognize June Foray’s name, though, you certainly know her voice. Or at least one of them, because she had so many.

Rocky_the_flying_squirrel
Rocky the Flying Squirrel

You may know the voice she used as Rocky the Flying Squirrel in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, or the one she used as Moose and Squirrel’s arch-nemesis, Natasha. If you’re a child of the 80s, you may be more familiar with her as Jokey Smurf. Looney Tunes fans know she spent decades as the kindly old Granny who tolerated Sylvester and Tweety, and may also recognize her as Witch Hazel, who occasionally tormented Bugs Bunny. Drastically different from her turn as Witch Hazel, of course, was her turn as Hazel the Witch, who once tormented Donald Duck on a memorable Halloween. And while we’re on the subject of ducks, Ducktales fans may not remember that she voiced Scrooge’s secretary Mrs. Weatherby, but how could they forget that she was also the nefarious Ma Beagle, or the deliciously evil Magica DeSpell?

Granny_Mysteries
Granny

And we’ve only scratched the surface here. Her IMDB credits — all 308 of them — cover a span of 71 years and include Disney films stretching from Cinderella to Mulan, TV cartoons including Garfield and Friends, The Simpsons, The Real Ghostbusters, Mr. Magoo, Dudley Do-Right, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, and even work on live-action television including Father Knows Best, I Love Lucy, and The Twilight Zone. The characters she voiced are countless: Martha Wilson, Betsy Ross, Grammi Gummi, May Parker, Mother Nature, Mrs. Santa Claus, Pogo Possum, Red Riding Hood, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and, of course, Barbara Streisand.

Magica
Magica DeSpell

Like many voice actors, when you know that June Foray is the person behind the character, you can hear the similarities between her voices. They are, after all, the children of the same throat. But at the same time, listen to Rocky and listen to Magica. The acting prowess of this woman was remarkable, and it saddens me somewhat that, compared to the other performers who have recently died, reaction to her passing seems somewhat subdued. Not to cast aspersions on any of the others, but I saw so many people talking about how Adam West was a part of their childhood, and now they’re blinking at the name of the woman who was literally the voice of it.

witch hazels
(Left) Witch Hazel, (Right) Hazel the Witch. Totally different.

I think part of the reason is that June Foray, for most of her career, was what you’d call a utility player. She was always there and always great, but she was rarely the star. While Mel Blanc was Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and a trillion others, Foray was the Granny who popped in and out of the cartoon or the Witch that Bugs had to outsmart. She wasn’t the main Smurf or the main Ghostbuster. She wasn’t the Grinch, she was Cindy Lou Who. She was Dudley Do-Right’s girlfriend. And except for Rocky her few leading turns — such as Dorothy Gale in the animated series Off to See the Wizard — are in projects that are largely forgotten.

cindy lou
Cindy Lou Who

None of this can in any way diminish her talent.

Chuck Jones (who directed so many of those cartoons in which she starred) once corrected someone who described her inadequately as “the female Mel Blanc.” Jones replied, “Mel Blanc was the male June Foray.”

The animation community, of course, already knows the scale of the giant who has fallen. The rest of the world should know it too. While there will never be a voice like hers again, we fortunately have enough of her work already to last the rest of our lives. Pop some classic cartoons on today, and listen for a while to the voice that made them whole.

Out of Towning

As I’ve mentioned before, Erin and I were in a long distance relationship for quite some time before we got married. As such, you would think we would be accustomed to spending time apart and, when circumstance necessitates we do so now, we wouldn’t have too difficult a time dealing with it. You would be extraordinarily wrong. At least on my part — Erin, of course, is much stronger and better-adjusted than I am. But ever since we’ve gotten married, I hate any time period greater than a standard work shift which we have to spend apart: when she goes out of town, when I go out of town, when traffic is a little congested on I-10. It sucks.

It’s worse when I’m out of town for a teaching workshop and Erin is pregnant.

This June, as she was beginning the heat-soaked sauna of a Louisiana Summer while pregnant, I was shipped out for a four day AP Institute, something we teachers do from time to time. I don’t mind these things. I enjoy working with other teachers and getting a better grasp of my curriculum and my subject. I do not, however, enjoy knowing that my wife and still-incubating son are three and a half hours away from me.

It probably doesn’t help that the school in which this year’s institute was held is — and here I’m going to be charitable — roughly the same distance Sam and Frodo had to walk with that ring away from anything remotely interesting. I’m not going to name this school or town, because the people there were uniformly gracious and pleasant, and the school campus is beautiful. But frankly, I’m convinced that the reason the school is so nice is because you have to drive about 150 miles to find anything else you could conceivably spend tax dollars on.

But I’m a big boy — I sucked it up and pulled up my bootstraps and put some bomp in the bomp-sha-bomp-sha-bomp, and I set off for the great unknown.

When I arrived in the great unknown, I heard that there was a tropical storm warning back in the ol’ familiar.

Being from southern Louisiana, I am a veteran of tropical activity. I’ve ridden out storms and gone to hurricane parties. There are pictures of myself and my family grabbing tree branches and pretending the winds were blowing us away. It’s not that we don’t take tropical weather seriously, it’s just that we’ve been through so much of it we know not to panic.

But that’s me.

Erin moved from Pittsburgh three years ago, and in the ensuing three years, we haven’t had any really significant tropical activity.

Oddly enough, the first time Erin ever came to Louisiana to visit me was for my birthday in late August. 2005. That’s right — the first time she ever met my family she wound up evacuating from Hurricane Katrina. Frankly, the fact that she ever came back again is all the evidence one should need that we were meant to be.

But regardless, now she’s at home by herself and as I write this from my little room in central Louisiana — which may as well be a million miles from south Louisiana — I’m nervous as hell. I know there’s nothing huge to worry about — we live next to my father and sister, so I know that if the power goes off or the windows blow out, she has somewhere to flee. And honestly, from the weather reports I’m hearing as I write this, I don’t think that’s even particularly likely. If I was at home right now, I’d be telling her there’s nothing to worry about beyond making sure we had fresh batteries and maybe a gallon of daiquiris in the fridge.

But there’s something about distance that amplifies danger in our minds. Everybody has this picture in their mind of something terrible going wrong — a lightning strike sets the garage on fire, a tornado rips out the kitchen wall, you run out of daiquiris — and it’s going to be so much worse because you’re not there to do anything about it. This is absurd, of course, because even if you were home, it’s not like you could just hold on to the kitchen wall until the wind died down and snap it back into place. If people took my advice and started building houses out of Lego Bricks it would be entirely possible, but I’ve learned not to plant my flag on that hill.

I’m writing this final paragraph on Thursday morning, the last day of the workshop, after the worst of the weather has passed. And, as expected, reports from home are fairly tame — a lot of rain, some wind, but nothing to be overly concerned about. But if I understand these things properly, at least half of being a parent is being concerned about your family whether there’s any reason to or not. The other half is telling the kid not to put rocks in the dishwasher. I’d like to think I’m prepared for both.

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.

Registry Time

After maternity shopping, there’s another big shopping day in the lives of any parent-to-be: the baby registry. The registry is a vital and sacred tradition in which you admit to your family and friends that, not only do you not own any of the furnishings necessary to take care of a child in a manner that wouldn’t seem out of place in the opening chapters of a Harry Potter novel, but you also would really, really like it if everybody else would just go ahead and purchase those items for you. Your friends and family, then, will download your list online, glance at it, and buy whatever they think you need instead.

I don’t want to give any free advertising to where we registered, as they aren’t actually paying us, but I can confirm that babies R totally them. I will say, however, that they won Erin over very quickly by giving her a goody bag containing another baby bottle (if you recall, this was a major selling point when she purchased some maternity clothes), as well as a bottle of water and — because we made the registry on Mother’s Day — a freshly-cut flower. She was tickled. She was over the moon. In fact, when we got in the car, she popped the flower in the bottle of water to keep it alive while we stopped to do our grocery shopping before we went home, then slapped my arm when I told her I thought it was adorable.

The actual procedure of the registry was very similar to when we registered for our wedding: they gave us a scanner gun and set us loose in the store to scan in items that we would really like it if other people would buy for us. The big difference this time, unlike when we did our wedding registry, is that Erin actually allowed me to do the scanning. For our wedding, she was so excited that she scanned virtually everything, occasionally asking me if I liked what she was scanning and usually even giving me time to reply before she rushed off to scan something else. This time around, though, it was totally different. This time she got so excited that she pointed at the things she wanted me to scan before she rushed off to point at something else.

Of course, I exaggerate a bit. Erin really does want me to be completely involved in the decision-making process, which she reminded me of after an hour and a half of me scanning in whatever she told me to scan in.

“I want you be a part of this!” she said. “Pick something out!”

“I promise you, sweetheart, if you pick out something I don’t like, I’ll tell you.”

“But I want you to be involved.”

“I am involved.”

“I want you to pick something!”

“When I see something I want to scan I’ll — oh wait, there’s a Superman onesie!”

Beep.

The truth is, I don’t think Erin always believes me when I tell her I agree with the choices she’s making. If I didn’t like the color of the humidifier we apparently need, I would have asked her to pick a different color. If I hated the stroller she picked out online before we even went to the store, I would have let her know. And in fact, I did pick out the octopus-and-whale-themed bedding set we went with — or at the very least, I told her it was my favorite out of the ones she picked out online before we left the house. At any rate, I was in no position to argue with any of her choices, if for no other reason than because while she was looking at baby bath towels, I was using the scanner gun as a microphone and lip synching to “My Girl” along with the in-store music. (I’ve already vowed to teach our little Guacamole all of my dance moves. Most kids should be so lucky.)

There honestly wasn’t a lot of division between us. There were, however, a few times where I had to convince her it was okay that we didn’t register for some item or other right away, but instead went home and did a little research before putting the item on the registry. The baby monitor, for example. Is an audio monitor enough, or do we need a video monitor? Is black-and-white acceptable, or does it need to be in color? Does it need to come with its own viewscreen, or can we set it up as an app on our phones? Where does America stand on the issue of Owl-shaped video cameras? Can we get Netflix on this thing? Important stuff.

Diapers were another thing to debate. Erin was quite insistent that we register for the right diapers. This shocked me. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know that you were allowed to register for items that are literally designed to fill with crap and then throw away, but there you go. And as I’m led to believe that babies go through diapers faster than I go through peanut butter M&Ms, I agreed that we should put approximately all of them on the registry. The question, though, was what size? I’m a big dude, but I don’t think I was a particularly large baby. Still, what if ours is?

‘“I don’t know what size diapers to register for,” Erin bemoaned.

“I don’t know either.”

“What if we get the eight-pound size and he’s too big?”

“Well, then we wouldn’t be able to use them.”

“How big were you when you were born?”

“I don’t remember, I was embarrassed to look at the scale.”

“I’m serious! What do we do?”

I thought about it. “Okay, look, they said that anything on the registry that’s unopened can be exchanged later, right?’

“Yeah.”

“So let’s just register for the eight-to-ten pound diapers. Then if, God forbid, he pops out too big for them, we can always return them and get the larger size, right?”

“Okay, I guess so.”

“Great.”

“What brand should we get?”

“Oh Jesus Christ.”

Anyway, registering is actually a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it for anybody who is pregnant with either a real or imaginary baby. And for our friends and family, the registry is there for anybody who wants to show how much they love us. Ignore the 15 packs of peanut butter M&Ms that I scanned in when we walked by the cash register.

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.

Vendetta

Ben and Jerry
Is it really a pint? The answer will ASTOUND you!

“It isn’t a pint.”

There are places where this phrase could be a matter of serious concern. In a hospital blood bank. In a bar. On a football field, if the referee judging the kicker’s performance has an inexplicable accent. But for my wife, it became drastically important in the grocery store freezer section.

“It isn’t a pint!” she repeated, vehemently. This was the most aggressive I’ve ever heard Erin act towards a pair of gentlemen she usually considers friends: Ben and Jerry. They’re an obscure couple, I know, so let me explain. Ben and Jerry are two hippies who started an ice cream company modeled after a pair of characters in Billy Crystal’s classic motion picture City Slickers. They make a good product, I must admit, but they’re not usually my first choice for ice cream because we live in Louisiana. Here, Blue Bell Ice Cream is readily available, and Blue Bell Ice Cream is, in the words of Sir Richard Attenborough, “Way the crap better than that other stuff.” If you live in one of those places in the world where there is no Blue Bell, allow me to explain how good it is this way: in 2015, the company temporarily stopped production and ordered a line-wide recall when a Listeria outbreak was discovered in some of its products. The vast majority of us would have been willing to risk it.

But back to Ben and Jerry — among their ice cream products is something called “Pint Slices.” These are essentially ice cream patties in hard chocolate shells, similar to Klondike bars, but without a marketing campaign that suggests someone might murder a Rabbi, for instance, to obtain one. Ben and Jerry’s marketing instead suggests that the “pint slices” are ostensibly created by “slicing up” their “pints” and dipping them in the “chocolate” shell. Now a “normal” person would assume that this is just a way to market their novelty treat and not meant to be taken literally. A normal person would point out that, were the ice cream in the pints actually sliced up, the slices from the bottom would be smaller than those cut from the top, and yet the three “slices” in the box are all clearly the same diameter. A normal person would not make a big deal out of this. A normal person would just eat them.

My beloved Erin is not normal. She is pregnant.

“IT IS NOT A PINT,” she insisted. “Look, I’ll prove it! How much does a pint weigh?”

“A pint is a measure of volume, not weight,” I said, after which she gave me a look that would make any reasonable bystander assume I had suggested she stuff her maternity pants with chicken fingers because nobody at that buffet is going to search the pregnant lady and I didn’t have anything to bring to work for lunch tomorrow. (This is not a mistake I would make twice.)

“Fine,” she said. “I’m going to melt these and then melt a pint and then I’m going to send the pictures to Ben and Jerry.”

“Okay,” I said, because I’m not an idiot.

Here’s the thing, guys: She’s probably right. Technically. If you measure the ice cream content of the three slices, it probably doesn’t add up to the same ice cream content as your usual pint of ice cream. However, that doesn’t mean this level of outrage is rational. Javert didn’t have this kind of dedication to bringing down Jean Valjean. I’m writing a musical based on this. The Phantom of the Creamery. Soft openings in April 2019.

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter if she’s right or not. I’m going to just be grateful that what she herself refers to as her “pregnancy brain” has chosen this relatively harmless hill to die on, rather than joining a mob of pipeline protesters, demanding justice for the children of Thailand, or trying to bring back the McDLT. I’m not casting aspersions on any of those other causes. I’m just saying that if it came down to it and I had to defend her honor, I’m pretty sure I could take either Ben or Jerry.

McDLT AddIn the meantime, I’m just going to eat my slice in peace.

POSTSCRIPT: After Erin read this, she rather emphatically informed me that the McDLT was STUPID because there was NO LOGICAL REASON WHY THE CHEESE SHOULD BE ON THE COLD SIDE, and that THIS is a hill she IS willing to die on.

I’m sorry I said anything.

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.