Nachos Lunchable Fan Club


I’m starting a fan club for the Nachos Lunchable. Not any of the other Lunchables. Just the Nachos one. I mean, it’s terrible. But it’s also so perfect. Especially when combined with the accompanying mini-Kit Kat and fruit-punch Capri Sun. Consider the flavor profiles here: weird cheese, ice-cold corn chips, watery ketchup, chocolate, fruit punch. It sounds disgusting. And yet it works.

The thing about being awake for 20 out of 24 hours is that you get hungry. Ravenous. Starving. One morning, at 3AM, the idea of the Lunchables Nachos suddenly seemed so so right. I guess you could say I had a craving for it. Which may be the first time in history anyone over the age of eight has ever had a craving for a Lunchable.

Let me tell you — it is the perfect food for keeping you awake. It’s 510 calories of corn syrup solids. It’s not food. Food is natural. Food moves through you. Food gives you nourishment. Food makes you sleepy, because sleeping is what healthy, well-nourished people do.

This is fuel. Fuel is a material. Fuel drives engines, which are naturally dormant. Fuel gives them life. Fuel makes you awake, because you are no a longer a person. You are a re-animated robot juiced, pumped full of, primed, and running smooooothly on 510 calories of corn and sugar.




I love dipping these microscopic stale chips into the icy pool of ketchup with that ONE sliver of onion floating in there. And let’s just talk about that cheese. That cheese. That beautiful cheese-like, neon-yellow substance. It’s almost like a custard. It has a little bit of a pull to it. Like when you’re dipping the chips, it has this quicksand-like tug to it, where it gently envelops and sucks down the chip for you. Or maybe I’m just hallucinating right now.

And then that Capri Sun. It’s like a shot of B-Vitamins mixed with speed. I don’t even care that the baby has just kicked it up a notch into LEVEL FIVE SCREAMING, because right now I’m on a tropical vacation in a weird foil pouch.

Now for the Kit Kat, which is just a regular old Kit Kat, but right now it tastes like a goddamn truffle imported from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy.

WHO NEEDS REAL FOOD. WHO NEEDS BLUEBERRIES OR ALMONDS OR KALE OR SPROUTS. I imagine this is what addicts feel like when they choose their drug-augmented reality over real life.

Okay, now I’m fully able to sooth and rock the baby for the next two hours. Does he ever sleep? Has he even slept at all in the last twenty-four hours? Have I? Has the wife? The only one I know for certain is the dog. Her face has taken on a permanent look of grimace and determination to sleep through this shit.

The wife and I take shifts in two-hour blocks. Later, on her shift, I startle awake to the sound of something in her voice. I don’t know what it is. Just her voice. I run downstairs to see what’s happening.

The baby is projectile pooping. The sound of her voice isn’t horror. It’s marvel. It’s like a scientist happening upon an undiscovered species. Something you didn’t know existed or could even possibly exist.

I didn’t realize my wife becomes a writer when describing poop. She’s very articulate and almost elegant about it. She was spitting out back to back metaphors like a free-style rapper.

“His butt was a Super Soaker full of poop.” 

“It was a soup pouring out of him.”

“He almost filled the entire changing pad. I thought it was going to overflow like a volcano.”

And that’s it. That’s my life. This blog is about babies and Lunchables and poop forever from now on.

Sleep Deprivation Dispatches


The eyes are open, staring, beautiful. It’s like a horror movie. An adorable horror movie. It’s 3AM, and after an hour and a half of rocking, singing, rocking, feeding, and a feeble attempt in the baby swing, I’ve carefully placed him in the crib with the technical precision of defusing a bomb. But the bomb goes off and those little blue eyes peek back open to ask where I think I’m going.

The wife and I have had many amusing, clever exchanges and anecdotes on child-rearing so far. And I’d tell you them if I could remember a single thing. In sleep deprivation, the first thing to go is short-term memory. The worst is bolting awake every hour on the hour, freaking out whether or not you actually did in fact put the kid back in the crib. I said we needed to come up with a code word to announce out loud and confirm landing in the crib. If only I could remember what I said the code word should be.

Everyone complains about the poop. The poop is nothing. Poop means everything works the way it should be on the inside. The poop is always a mini-celebration with gifts and cake. “You pooped!” we sing when we open the diaper. Spit-up, on the other hand, is the real nightmare. Regurgitated sour milk hiding in baby neck fat folds is the worst.

Earlier, while holding the baby and watching TV, I came across a made-for-television B-movie called Jersey Shore Shark Attack. After watching a few minutes of it, I was beyond captivated. Instantly — and with a bit of panic — I turned it off. I MUST NOT SPOIL ANY MORE OF THIS. I NEED TO SEE THIS PROPERLY FROM THE BEGINNING. Then I spent twenty minutes searching with ZEAL for the next airing, which isn’t until August 29th. I promptly announced we were going to rent it.

I really need to leave the house.

We did leave the house the other day, to take fifteen minute walk around the neighborhood. It took two hours of preparation and planning around the feeding/changing/barfing-all-over-oneself schedule.

When the baby looks at me, he nearly takes my breath away, and then he’s so gorgeous that I’m completely certain God exists. Then he burps and farts at the same time.

From what I’ve gathered, his interests so far are ceilings. Ceilings are fascinating. As are the warnings printed on the inside of his pack-and-play. He reads it over and over with rapt attention.

A sampling of things I’ve eaten:

- Blue Raspberry Twinkies because I clearly hate myself
– Ramen noodles because it only takes 3 minutes to make
– Those fucking peaches with listeria because that’s the last time I ever try being healthy
– Ice cream because.
– Ninja Turtles Pizza Hut Cheesy bites Pizza, eaten hastily in shifts while taking turns with a volcanic-red screaming baby.
– McDonald’s
– McDonald’s again whatever
– Some tofu thing the neighbors made us
– Birthday Cake M&Ms which sound totally awesome, but sort of suck

Also these.


This is a three-pound bear-shaped tub of Animal Crackers. It’s roughly between the size of a Big Gulp and above-ground swimming pool. We opened them twelve hours ago, and eaten the bear’s head fill of the cookies. The dog likes them too. We’re all surviving.

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


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


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.

The Production Crew


I have voices in my head. I call them the production crew. They’re how I write. The editor made me write this very sentence about four different ways. The critic told me not to write it at all.

I’ve been doing some grief work with a therapist for the past several weeks. I blame the documentarian in my head, the one who records everything, the footage of life that I later review and write from. But more on that in a moment.

Hang on. The critic is having a shit fit right now. The critic, a lazy balding type (who also smokes cigars, of course), actually took the time to get out of his chair (which rarely happens) and stomp across my brain to the centerstage.

Stop. Quit it. You don’t tell them that. No one wants to hear about the oversensitive blathering you do in therapy.

And the editor, who is always uptight and overly-cautious, is half-shrugging and half-nodding along with the critic. The editor plays it safe, defers always to the critic, and has no creative mind of his own.

Fuck those guys. (Who also never let me curse.) I’ve learned grieving isn’t like camping. You can’t just rough it out in the wilderness. Besides, I should have known better. I hate camping. I’m a princess. I like showers and sheets with thread counts.

By now, as per usual, the critic has shirked out of the room. It usually takes about a page — 300 or so words — to get rid of him. That’s my advice anyway, if the critic is holding you back. Give it a page. They go away.

My mom died 219 days ago. 31 weeks ago. On November 9th, a Saturday seven months and six days ago. At 12:15PM. Fourteen minutes after I kicked the Careful Wet Floor sign across the waiting room, while waiting to get buzzed into the ICU unit, which took nine seconds to mechanically open, if you didn’t just yank the doors and barge through them yourself. At that moment though, I was in no rush.

Two weeks earlier to the exact day, I’d talked to her on the phone for the last time. It was October 26th. She said she wasn’t feeling well. Before we hung up, I heard something in her voice. I guess it was fear. I quickly brushed it off, but the documentarian didn’t. The documentarian hit the record button.

This also turns out to be the day we conceived. The same day my mother began dying is the same day my son began living. It’s just too dense of a forest to get through—let alone understand. It’s obscured and overgrown with brush. You’d hate camping out here, too.

The real problem began when the documentarian got fed up with me. After a few weeks has passed, the documentarian got tired of lugging all that hospital footage around. Trunks full of such rich film, emulsified in the stark black and white of life — life and death itself — but also deep in the grays, like those faces of the hospital nurses, filled with empathy for you, but also removed boredom, waiting for a shift change.

Go through this shit already. I recorded all of this. One of the most significant events in your life. I took down every excruciating detail for you. Watch it already so that I don’t have to carry it around.

Hell no. I didn’t dare want to touch it. Didn’t want to look at it. There was some stuff in there. Bad stuff. Stuff I can’t talk about with anyone, ever. So the documentarian began showing me the footage all the time. Against my will. When I was driving, reading, sleeping, dreaming. Having dinner? Here, have a face.

Oh, here’s one. Here’s a good one. How about the face of your mother on the dialysis machine? She’s shivering, because the dialysis makes her cold. She has the blanket pulled up around her neck, like a little child, which is where she is right now, her brain is swelling. She thinks she is a child being tucked in for the night. In a small voice, she asks me to sing her an nursery rhyme before she goes to bed.

Fuck no. This shit has got to go. It’s nuclear. I need to get underground. I need to live in a fallout shelter. I’m done in this forest, hacking away at this brush with a machete. Time’s up. Grab the shovel. It’s time to start digging.

So I dug for a few months, and couldn’t get far enough away from the radiation. It’s a cancer. It will eat you alive.

“And who are you in all of this?” the therapist asks me, after I describe the production crew.

I’m the writer.

Writing is also like being on a path that is always obscured and overgrown with brush. Never knowing where you’re going with it. You spend some of the time hacking away at that density, but you spend most of your time meandering.

Why do I write? I want to give an honest answer. Not some cornball answer that you often get from writers, like when they profess their love for words. What does that even mean? You know what I really love? Sour cream. Seriously, I will scoop loads of it on my tacos or baked potatoes, and you’d think no one has ever heard of saturated fat or heart disease.

But enough meandering.

I actually write because I’m an incredibly shy person. I don’t even like eye contact. You know what creeps me out? That you’re supposed to look at another person’s eyeballs in their eye sockets the whole time you’re talking to them. Sometimes when I’m looking at people’s eyeballs in their eye sockets, I’m like dude, this person actually has a bloody skeleton inside of them right now. Right now I’m talking to a bloody skeleton. And that is weird.

So that’s why I write. It’s communication without the bloody skeletons. Something like that. But I’m not going to tell the therapist this. It might need a diagnosis.

Or maybe I just write to quiet the voices in my head. Which also probably needs a diagnosis. And I guess that’s why I just wrote all of this. To shut the documentarian up for a little bit. It helps, you know.