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.

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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.