Category Archives: Things I Like

I Love This Baby! Thank You For Making Him For Me!

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Brian James was born on Free Slurpee Day, or 7-11-14. This is another one of those life events where I have no idea how to narrate it or tell it. So I’ll just write without much thinking or editing, and we’ll see where it goes. There are too many words. There are not enough. Or as I dumbly put it to my wife while high on baby fumes, “I love this baby! Thank you for making him for me.”

Let’s back up a few weeks to where my wife was dragging me to all these birthing classes and hippy-dippy birthing seminars taking place in weird people’s attics. Add in the birth books and all the things read on the internet. Now I’ll just go ahead and throw all of that in the trashcan, because NOTHING HAPPENED THAT WAY AT ALL.

Now let’s back up to what would be our last date/dinner together as a childless, care-free couple. We had fallen into a “fast food at home” rut in the prior days, with the wife in constant pain and it always being approximately 3000 degrees outside. But feeling a burst of energy, we decided to go out to a new place together, a British pub with great food and spirits. We sat outside on a patio while some teenager played acoustic covers alt-90s songs with a nasally-emo twist. Kids today.

The air was cool and the sky was darkening as a thunderstorm slowly rolled in. We finished our meal just in time before the rain started. I had ordered the vegan burger — a quarter-pound patty of “premium vegan ground beef.” Which is a fancy way of saying it was a gigantic brick of pure fiber. Little did I know this dinner choice would come back to haunt me in just a few hours.

With still another week to go before our due date and no signs of labor, we weren’t expecting anything other than a weekend of sadly scrolling through everyone’s beach vacation posts on Facebook, while we sat at home with the curtains drawn. Instead, at 3:45 AM, the wife startled, stood up out of bed, and matter-of-factly announced her water broke. I love the next detail for some reason — she also said she had been having the most vivid dream of running naked and pregnant down the highway.

I immediately jumped up, grabbed the dog who sleeps in bed with us, carried her one-armed down the stairs, and secured her in the dining room area. I did this without words, automatically, as though it were some kind of tornado safety drill. I have no idea why I did that, but the important thing was THE DOG IS SECURED, even though it was completely unnecessary.

What was next? Mentally I began to run through the stuff we had learned in the classes. I remembered the very important lesson the burly nurse teaching the birthing class had told us about what happens when the water breaks first: “it only happens in about 10% of cases, so we’re not going to waste too much time going over that.”

Great. Well, I guess I was going to have to make up my own plan of action.

“Let’s call the doctor right now,” I said, with more firmness than fear in my voice, at least I like to think so.

“Calm down,” the wife said. I guess she heard more fear. “We have hours. I don’t even have contractions yet. I’ll call the doctor in a little bit.”

“Nope. We’re going to the hospital soon. Call now.”

“You didn’t read any of the baby books I wanted you to read, so now you’re freaking out because you have no idea how it works,” the wife lectured. “We have hours to go. I want to labor at home for awhile.”

I was hitting a wall with her. We WERE going to the hospital SOON, so I decided to just go ahead and plow through the rest of my action plan, including showering, changing, and packing the car.

Several minutes later, I was ready to leave, and the wife was casually alternating between casually brushing her hair and running to the toilet to casually gush out amniotic fluid. I won’t entail the next half-hour of events, but it involved escalating arguing about what the baby books said, ending with the wife crying hysterically in the shower, and me realizing I had to let her call the shots.

So we walked the dog…

…and I did the dishes…

…and the wife calmly packed a few extra things…

…while I watered the plants…

…and she slowly ate breakfast and checked email…

It was agonizing for me. But since she is also great at compromise, we did finally make it to the hospital by 7am. Besides, she had begun to have a few minor contractions. I called our families and told them we had hours. Hours. Don’t come until after lunchtime, maybe later.

This is the point where my stomach began to knot up and that gigantic brick of fiber began to rumble. But I will not entail any more of this, either. Let’s just say I made it to the bathroom in time. Oh, and I made it OUT of bathroom in time, too.

The wife began having stronger contractions. But she was still totally able to stand and talk, so there was no urgency. We casually sauntered back to triage and a nurse looked at where she was. This is where the casualness stopped.

The wife was already EIGHT CENTIMETERS DILATED AND 100% EFFACED. Suddenly a hospital team in full-blown riot/birthing gear stormed the room and rushed us into a delivery room. It was actually a terrifying moment, and I actually had a bit of PTSD with images of my mother in the ICU. I just have to acknowledge that this whole journey began nine months earlier, when we found out the wife was pregnant two days before my mother died in the hospital.

Seeing all those hospital workers storm the room and start working on the wife, I had a hard time separating what was happening. Was my mom dying again? Was my wife going to be okay? Would the baby be okay?

I panicked. “What’s happening? What’s going on?” I asked out loud to anyone who would answer.

Then a midwife stood in front of me and almost shook me a little bit. “You’re going to have a baby very soon,” she said.

It was a powerful moment, powerful enough to finally cleave the two hospital experiences into two separate events.

I called our families back. “Nevermind, come now. COME NOW.”

We did not have hours. In fact, we had ninety minutes, and then only thirty minutes more of pushing. I don’t want to be smug and say I was right. The wife talked about a pregnant mother’s intuition. Yeah, and I have a crazy person’s intuition. You know that babbling guy standing on the corner predicting that the world is going to end? Sure, he’s crazy, but he’s also not totally wrong.

The wife did it without meds or interventions. She is amazing. Watching my son be born is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Seeing his face for the first time was stunning. He was perfect, healthy, weighing eight pounds and four ounces. Thank you, God. Thank you. Thank you.

And now we are here at home with him, figuring this whole thing out together. I’m teaching him about life, and he’s teaching me about life. First lesson for me: there is such a thing as green liquid poop.

Comfort Measures in Birthing… Or Alternate Title: I Know Nothing About My Wife

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Sometimes I realize how little I know my wife. Sure, we can be connected on an almost-scary telepathic level and finish each other’s sentences, but that’s the “us.” I know us. She knows us. Us together is its own thing, an unbeatable force — unless we’re playing co-op Mario Bros on the Wii — then we’re just teetering on divorce.

The wife also has a new-agey hippy-dippy side — a side that likes yoga and meditation — and is open to trying to new things and new ideas. This is the side I know nothing about — because despite her trying to get me to “come to yoga” with her for the last seven years of our relationship, I’m much happier being close minded and stiff in my lower back.

So when she signed us up for something called a “comfort measures in birthing” class, I assumed it was just another standard birthing class through the hospital. That class had been an eight-hour marathon in which the fairy tale band-aid of where babies come from was ripped off — ripped directly off my eyeballs.

I didn’t know what a comfort measures class meant, except that the wife described it as a way to learn some all natural pain-coping mechanisms for birth. I assumed it was another band-aid to rip off, perhaps in gentler, all-natural way.

I also assumed the class was at the hospital, perhaps taught by the same burly war-storied nurse who had taught the last class, a woman who had described in great detail her experiences of pushing out three ten-pound babies. She didn’t just rip the band-aid off; she tightened the tourniquet, handed you a stick to bite down on, pulled out the amputation knife, and took off the whole limb. That’s a metaphorical way of saying that I learned the baby isn’t the only thing that comes out during birth.

Still, I like this methodology. I prefer this. Give me the amputation knife, plunge it directly into my chest. Give it to me. I can take it. The wife, on the other hand, prefers something called “comfort measures.” Those words again — and whatever they meant, were not taking place at the hospital or coming from the 1800s-era surgical nurse.

“Oh, the class is at somebody’s house,” the wife said, casually dropping this detail during breakfast, not realizing she had just spoken the most terrifying sentence in the course of humanity, even more so than “we’re going to a potluck dinner.”

“Whose house?” I asked cautiously.

“Oh you know, the doula’s house,” she said.

The wife had hired a doula to assist her during childbirth. It’s a non-medical professional woman who sort of plays a personal coaching role, providing comforting energy and experience. Basically it’s the opposite of me, who will be providing nervous pacing, nonsensical murmurings to self, and glasses of ice water, as needed.

So there we were a few hours later, sitting in a “share circle,” cross-legged in somebody’s house, with three other couples, birth balls, aromatherapy candles, and the doula — a small-framed, kindly-voiced woman whom you might mistake for a kindergarten teacher, if not for arm-sleeve tattoo and glint in the eye. It’s a glint that you’ll go over and over again in your mind, trying to figure out what it says, but whatever it says, you instinctively know not to cross it.

As for the other couples: there were the doctor-distrusting, home-birthing hardcore-ists. There were the neurotic hand-wringy couple who were overdressed — maybe they just got off work — but you get the sense they always dressed like that. Then there were the bubbly couple who looked like you might have run into them at the tiki-themed country bar in your old hometown. They were the ringers. That’s the only way I can explain them.

So what exactly are “comfort measures?” Well, I can tell you they are measures that would not comfort me. We learned techniques in little workshops, like holding a comb in one’s hands at certain pressure points, running a tasseled scarf along the body, or breathing in lavender oils. If I’m ever in pain, I can tell you holding a comb in my hand is not going to do shit. But the wife is open to all ideas, so she laid on the floor and I ran the tasseled scarf along her body, and the doula came over to correct my motion to a “massaging ocean-like” motion, and I listened because I wasn’t about to cross her.

In one of the workshops, there was a bowl of ice-water. The trick was to keep your hand submerged in the ice water and endure the pain a full minute — the length of a contraction — while your partner read affirming sentences to you. I submerged my hand in the water a full minute, no affirmations needed. Proving what exactly? I’m not the one having the baby. But see? Give it to me. I can take it.

Now it was the wife’s turn.

“You are a strong and capable woman,” I read monotonously off the card.

“Your body is a wide open space for the baby to descend…”

I stopped. The wife had lasted ten seconds in the ice water.

At that moment I realized I totally know my wife. And it wasn’t this. She’s a younger sibling. She responds to antagonizing. She’s defiant. Tell her she can do something, and she questions you. Tell her she can’t do something, and she pushes you out of the way to prove you wrong.

I raised my voice. “Just put your hand back in that stupid ice water and keep it in there. I did it. It was the easiest thing in this stupid world,” I said.

She did. At the ten second point, she began to flush and wince in pain.

“Quit being dramatic, you got just a little more to go,” I said.

At the thirty second mark, she threatened to quit. “I can’t do this anymore,” she said.

“You drag me to this ridiculous crap for two and a half hours, I think you can do another thirty seconds,” I said.

By now the whole room was looking at us, with my “anger proclamations” cutting through the lavender-scented birthing affirmations.

“Now everyone’s looking at us, so you gotta get this. You’re at 45 seconds. My hand wasn’t even hurting yet at this point,” I said.

She hung on, to prove us all wrong. 60 seconds. She made it. The room clapped, and we moved onto the next workshop, which involved me inexplicably rolling tennis balls on the wife’s back.

24 days to go.

Pregnancy Dispatch, Day 237: Alex Trebek is My Dad.

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Still here. 43 days to go. What’s new? Well, the wife and I have taken to watching Jeopardy regularly. It hits 7:30 and we’re parked on the couch, dinner laid out on the TV trays in front of us. We’re old now. Can you turn up the volume a notch? Another notch? We’re also deaf now.

Actually, it happens a bit more frantically, like this:

“Hurry up, turn it up!” I say, mouth full of food.

“Where’s the remote?” the wife asks.

“CRAP Alex is already through with the introductions. We’re gonna miss the categories.”

And yes, we’re on a first-name basis with the man. He’s basically my father. Face it, Alex Trebek is basically your father, too.

Panicked, we scan the room for the remote.

Hang on, let me back a minute, back to that part where I casually dropped the fact that we’re eating on TV trays in front of the TV. Our lives have devolved to this. It began innocently enough — when the wife was on bedrest and we wanted to minimize the walking from room to room. But now they’re still here, and we sort of like them.

Anyway, back to REMOTE CONTROL EXPEDITION 2014. By which I mean, it’s been visually located, but it’s a million miles away. By which I mean, it’s just out of arm’s reach, over there on that end table. That stupid end table!

After eight months of pregnancy, the couch has become not so much something we sit on, but rather something we get into. We’ve taken to calling it “the hole.” It’s no longer “go sit on the couch.” It’s “go get in the hole.” The Black Hole of sunken leather, crumbs, loose change and hidden dog toys.

Simply standing up to go get the remote isn’t an option. There are steps. Multiple, daunting steps, like an IKEA manual. Step one: climb out of the hole. Step two: squeeze past the dinner tray careful not to knock it over. Step three: tip-toe over the very very pregnant wife.

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: the remote!

Step four: fumble for the buttons. By the way, Alex is already reading the first answer, and we’re TOTALLY MISSING IT. What are we on? Step two million? Tip-toe back over very very prego. Step five million: squeeze back past dinner tray. Step sixty-million: climb back into the hole.

Okay? Okay. Point remote, turn it up.

“OH MY GOD, YOU ACCIDENTALLY CHANGED THE CHANNEL,” Very Very Prego screams in horror.

Indeed, it is horrific. Now we’re on Little Women: LA, a show that I can unfortunately identify and perhaps even speak conversationally about. Just kidding, I have no idea what that is.

Really.

“GO BACK GO BACK GO BACK,” Very Very Prego is mantra-ing to me.

I’m sweating, pouring over all of these buttons on this remote. This stupid remote! Ah, there it is.

Okay? Okay.

We settle in, chewing our dinner like horses, playing along and shouting out answers. My tactic is to shout out “What Is The Ottoman Empire?” if all else fails. I swear that’s one of the question-answers every episode. I also enjoy egging on the contestants to make it a true Daily Double, like a drunk heckler at a baseball game.

“Pfft. Pfffffft. Should have done it. Should have done it. Always playing it safe, like little baby scared-y cats.”

The wife encourages me and praises when I shout out the answers first. “Wow, how did you know that honey? You’re so smart!” she says.

Me? I don’t play that way. I play to win. When she gets answers right, I mutter “easy one” to myself. Anyone with a half a brain could sweep Ancient World Maps Found in the Archaeological Ruins of Mesopotamia.

Remember, if the answer is just on the tip of your tongue, it basically counts as being right. And if you instantly shout “I knew that one, I just couldn’t think of it fast enough,” after the answer is given, that also counts. But only for me. Not for the wife.

You think I’m asshole at couch Jeopardy, you should see me at mini-golf. “That should count hole-in-ones” are my hidden talent. And that plaster gorilla overseeing the course is my spirit animal. Face it, it’s basically your spirit animal, too.

Is It Bad That I Want to Keep This?

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I’ve been hitting a magical streak of finding unopened generic 80s/90s toys at the thrift store. Two weeks ago it was those walkies talkies, yesterday it was this amazing ELECTRONIC PULSATING FAZER II. (No doubt an upgrade from the Fazer I, if that ever even existed.) Like the walkie talkies, I bought it with the intention of selling it. Some weirdo on eBay would want this random generic toy gun from 1991.

Aaaand that weirdo is me.

I had to surgically extract the long-dead demonstration batteries, which had exploded and leaked twenty-year old battery acid on my hands during the excavation. Pretty sure my cancer risk just increased another 1% today.

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There is nothing particularly special about this toy gun. It’s your standard toy gun that makes the same dinky electronic sounds that they all make, running through a pattern of telephone rings, machine gun sounds, and other singsong beeps, while flashing blue/red and vibrating.

And yet, upon closer examination, it just had these lovable 1990s hallmarks about it: the “rad” neon colors and the futuristic see-through “science.”

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Gah. I’m a goner. I’M KEEPING IT. One day, me and the boy are going to have a ray-gun battle, and the classic 1991 Pulsating Fazer (II) will be weapon of my choice.

Ode to These Awesome 1980s Walkie Talkies

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Remember when this blog used to be about fun stuff and awesome 80s toys? Remember before my life got super serious and introspective? Remember when I was a different person? Young and carefree? Yeah, that.

Well I found these old school walkie talkies at the thrift store. I had every intention of flipping them for a few extra bucks on eBay, but I also knew there was no chance of it happening. Because look at them. When you think of 1980s toys, you think of the major touchstones in popular culture. You’re not remembering the generic crappy day to day toys that made up the actual bulk of your toy box, your life. I think I had these exact walkie talkies. I think it’s possible that every kid on the planet once had these exact walkie talkies.

Every aspect of them was somehow perfect. Let’s take a closer look.

PERFECT ASPECT #1: Friendly Reminder Kay-Bee Sticker

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PERFECT ASPECT #2: Weathered Tape Barely Holding Box Together

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PERFECT ASPECT #3: Styrofoam, Baby

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PERFECT ASPECT #4: Confounding Morse Code Translation. Seems Legit.

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PERFECT ASPECT #5: Fancy Belt Clip

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PERFECT ASPECT #6: The Freaking Receipt

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