& you lost me, pal

I’ve been reading this book called The Expectant Father. A lot of people seemed to recommend it, and there really aren’t a whole lot of baby books out there I’ve seen that are actually geared toward dads and how to prepare for a baby. Because, let’s face it, we’re not doing a whole lot of the work—aside from general fetching of things and talking to the baby, this is a process that’s completely out of our hands. I wanted to try to find something productive to do with the time that will actually help me be a decent dad.

This book will (probably not) change your life.

So I found this book. And you know me—I gotta have issues.

It’s not that the book is terrible. It’s just that it’s so . . . meh. In every chapter (separated out by month of pregnancy, naturally), it gives a list of things the mother is experiencing and things the baby is experiencing. Stuff that you can find in any pregnancy book. Not really shaking any worlds there.

Then they list things the father may be experiencing. And as I read through these lists, I really didn’t feel that I was experiencing most of the things they said I’d be experiencing. I kind of felt that I’m not the audience for this book. It’s probably not intended for the dad-to-be who goes out and creates a blog.

The rest of the chapters kind of go through different things you can do to help prepare for the baby. And if I’m going through this book along with the pregnancy, usually the stuff that gets brought up is a month or six late. Like in the seventh month chapter, they talk about baby names. Do people really wait till the seventh month to start thinking about names? Karli’s got both boy and girl names picked out for Squatch already. Has for a while. And for the next couple kids. A little late to the party, aren’t we Mr. Brott and Ms. Ash? And besides, there are countless other baby name books and websites already. Can’t you bring something original to the table?

But all that just makes me pretty disinterested in continuing the book. There’s a point I reached, though, where I just couldn’t bring myself to read any further. And that’s in month six, where they bring this gem:

As if that wasn’t weird enough . . . if your partner has been forgetful lately, or seems to be losing a lot of things—including her memory—it may be because her brain is shrinking*. Yep. Anita Holdcroft, an English anesthesiologist, found during pregnancy, women’s brains actually get 3 to 5 percent smaller.

Now that you know this, it’s probably best you keep it to yourself.

*Emphasis mine.

Really? You think I shouldn’t tell my wife that her brain is getting smaller? Tell me, Captain Duh, what are your thoughts on giving the baby Valium and Jack Daniels after it’s born? If it won’t stop crying, do I just shake it or leave it in its crib while I run to the store for more whiskey?

WHY WOULD YOU INCLUDE THIS INFORMATION? It may very well be true, but is it helpful in the least? When your kids were growing up, did you give them a hand grenade then tell them not to pull the pin while you were inside chatting with your friends?

THINK, PEOPLE! My wife knows I’m reading this book. She can see me reading it. Then she asks me what they’re telling me because, you know, we’re married and actually talk to each other. And I’m not supposed to mention that they’re telling dads their wives’ brains are shrinking?

At that point, I had to give up on the book. If this is the kind of stuff they deem helpful information, I don’t think I want to know what other landmines are waiting for me in months 7-9. No thanks. Now I know I’m not the audience for this.

But now I have a dilemma. I’m one of those nerds. Those academics. I read to find out about things. Anyone have any books to recommend for expectant dads? One that’s not just full of information you can find in What to Expect When You’re Expecting? And that’s not going to end with me sleeping on the couch?

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& a lesson in manhood: the manual

Lessons in Manhood

Lesson 8: Instructions

Squatch, if television and movies have taught you anything about men, it’s that we don’t read the instructions and we don’t ask for directions.

Movies and TV are bullshit. If I’ve taught you anything, it’s that.

Well, except the directions thing. I still have trouble with stopping to ask for directions, but that has less to do with manhood and more to do with being afraid of the guy in the gas station with the lazy eye.

Because, you know, low-flying aircraft.

One of the things a Man needs to know, however, is that the instructions are important. They’re there for a reason. Some things in life don’t need them, but not everything in life is completely intuitive. Otherwise cavemen would’ve invented space travel. For most things, you actually need to read the damn directions.

Why am I telling you this, Squatch? It seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Well, as you know, your dad’s a teacher. And it’s that time of the semester where students start freaking out about their grades. Why they start worrying in the last week of class, when there’s nothing they can do about it, instead of at the beginning of the semester, when they have a chance to change it, I have no idea. But they do.

And I send them back to read the directions—the syllabus. I point to the part where it says I don’t take late work. I point to the other part where it says I don’t do extra credit (mostly because it’s more work for me just so they can bring their grade up). Then I point to the part where it says attending class making sure they get their work in on time is their responsibility.

Then they look at me like I’m a terrible person. It’s the same look they gave their futon when they moved into the dorm and had a few extra parts left over. In both cases, it’s because they didn’t read the instructions.

Maybe they need to learn their lessons the hard way. I know I once did. And now I read the instructions. I even got my manual for you.

Squatch, a Man knows when to read the instructions. Sometimes, he doesn’t need to. When there’s a sign next to the silver part on the toilet that says “Push Too Flush” (sic), you probably don’t need to read it.

Otherwise, for the love of Cheez-Its, read the damn directions.

& out d-bag spotting

One of the things about living in a rural area is that occasionally wild creatures will encroach on the populated area. It’s not uncommon to see deer wandering across campus early in the morning. We’ve heard of people around us whose pets have been eaten by coyotes and mountain lions*. One person we’ve known had an armadillo loose in her house. It happens.

*Yep, we got those in Okie-land. Jealous?

We're thisclose to getting the D-bag Spotter merit badge.

One creature that has gone from mere encroachment to full on infestation is the American douchebag. Finding overcrowding at their natural habitats—tanning salons, 24-Hour Fitness franchises, Hollister stores, night clubs—they have made their way into less populated areas to seek out new nests.

As there aren’t many public places around where we live, Karli and I see them around quite a bit. Like at lunch today.

Karli: “That guy over there has a ‘Muff Divers Union, Local 69’ shirt on. Who would wear something like that?”

Me: “Hmm?”

Karli: “The guy over there. His t-shirt says ‘Muff Divers Union, Local 69.’ Who would—”

Me: “I heard you the first time. I just wanted to make you say it again.”

Karli: “I hate you.”

& who needs an alarm clock?

I’ve snooped around enough pregnancy and parenting blogs to know the things that people get worked up about in the process of cooking up their spawn. I hear a bunch about the Braxton Hicks and the kicking of the ribs. But in our house, our fury has been diverted to another pregnancy hurdle: Round Ligament Pain.

Here’s how it went down.

At around five this morning, Karli turned on the light in our bedroom and said something about going to the hospital. She was in pain and crying. In the course of about five seconds, I did about seven different Muppet impressions, starting with Sam the Eagle as I glared at the light to the Swedish Chef as I spouted some half-awake gibberish that made sense to nobody else and finally into full-blown Animal as I threw on clothes and sped off for McAlester.

The drive at 5ish a.m. made me realize a couple things. First, how do people in places like this live with the hospital thirty miles away? I don’t mean that in a city-fied, “Ugh, how do they live without Starbucks?” kinda way. No, I mean how are these people still alive? Any serious injury is going to bleed out before they can get there. I’m surprised this place isn’t covered in foam rubber just to make sure nobody gets hurt.

Second, I think 5:30 a.m. is early enough that probably 80 percent of the people on the road are probably only there for some kind of emergency. Who else in their right mind would be out that early on a Saturday? That means if you’re in the other 20 percent, you need to speed the hell up, especially on a two-lane highway. It’s too early for casual jaunts. Drive fast or stay in bed.

Long story short, the throbbing and stabbing that Karli was worried would be her appendix rupturing or Squatch in distress were just round ligament pain. Completely normal, especially at about 28-29 weeks in the pregnancy. Karli had been feeling the ligament stretching for sometime, but I guess Squatch’s big head* being in the right spot just caused a little extra pain. So thanks a lot for that, baby.

*I’m guessing. It is my kid, after all.

They told her to take it easy for a couple days, which she was very glad to do. We came back home and went back to sleep for a little while before heading out to a baseball game that she had to photograph. She got a nice sunburn on her legs to go with her stretching ligaments. It’s not a good day to be Karli’s legs.

Of course, Karli’s policy on giving blood apparently applies to scary doctor visits of any kind—later in the day we went and got ice cream. It’s always a good day for ice cream.

& the no good, very bad day

Apologies to Judith Viorst.

Just so you know, I survived all the tribulations that are to be detailed henceforth. So don’t worry.

I’ve talked before about how Karli wants me to get life insurance because this baby needs to be taken care of if anything happens to me. She actually wants to get it for herself, too, but insurance companies won’t insure pregnant or recently post-partum women, so she’s gotta wait. But that didn’t stop me!

So finally, after months of putting it off, we talk to the insurance company and they send us some stuff and they tell me that I need to arrange a quick physical to get checked out. So I call the nurse that they told me to, and I arrange an appointment. I ask how long it’ll take. “Just twenty minutes or so,” she says. “I just need to ask you some questions, get your height and weight, and do urine and blood testing.”

You need to what now?

We’re all friends here, right? I mean, what’s the internet if not a place where everyone is decent and understanding? So I feel I can tell you that I don’t do needles. And when I say “I don’t do needles,” I mean that there’s a chance I’ll faint and/or soil my undergarments and whatever furniture I happen to be using. And that’s if I’m around someone getting poked. If it’s me—well, that’s full-on freak-out time.

My appointment was scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m., because that’s when the nurse was in town and available. Hooray rural areas! I was also told in my insurance packet o’ information that I wasn’t to have any food for 12 hours leading up to the test. Yeah, that’s right—NO FOOD ALL DAY.

Luckily, my wife is amazing and woke up to bring me a bowl of cereal at about 6:30 because she knows that even the thought of not eating all day isn’t going to drag my groggy ass out of bed that early in the morning—not on the worst day ever known to mankind.

I ate my cereal, and everyone was being super nice to me because they knew that this was the worst day ever (we’ll just start calling it the WDE for short). The dog was cuddled up next to me and the cat decided he wanted to get in some WDE love, too. For about a minute. Then he decided it’d be more fun to attack the dog.

Our dog is a sissy. She is afraid of the cat. And hard floors. And most anything else, actually. So when the cat normally swats her on her big ol’ nose, she just kind of takes it till he scampers off. If we’re nearby, we usually shove the cat to make him run away, which I did when he started attacking the dog yesterday.

Only, since it’s the WDE, the dog decides to retaliate. Right as I’m shoving the cat. Which means that instead of nipping the cat, my hand ends up taking the brunt of it. Which means the WDE starts off with a dog bite. Lovely.

I don’t know if you’re afraid of anything yourself, hordes of internet admirers massive amounts of friends and family guy who’s trying to kill a few minutes on the internet at work, but if you are, you know that people will try to give you advice on how to cope. How to conquer that fear. How not to turn into a trembling, piss-stained mess when faced with that phobia. And you also know it doesn’t help. EVER.

People are well-meaning, but the simple fact is that if it were that easy to get over a phobia, you’d have ditched it a long time ago. So “just turn your head” or “think about something else” might as well be “ride your magic unicorn” and “give happiness a hug,” because it’s JUST. NOT. HAPPENING.

Luckily, by the time the appointment of doom happened, a few things had managed to tame the WDE a little bit. After the dog bite, I went and wrote a very funny post about reading that made people LOL. Most importantly, my wife LOLed, so she shared it on her Facebook (which I don’t have) and a bunch of people came over and read it. And Emily from The Waiting LOLed, and she shared it on Twitter and I got some of the residual glow from her post-Freshly Pressed famousness. And as a result, more people visited here yesterday than ever before*! So howdy, new readers, if you decided to stick around. And thanks to the people who are more well-liked than I am for sending people here.

*It’s still a pretty pathetic head count my most bloggers’ standards, but I’m baby-stepping it here.

Also, unexpectedly, I actually did have some things to take my mind off the terrible, awful thing that was about to happen to me. As you may have noticed, I said they also needed to do a urine test. So when 5:30 rolled around and I had to pee, I knew I had to hold it. Which means by the time my appointment actually started, my bladder was calling the shots. I needed to get it over with so I could just go pee.

Luckily, the nurse was very understanding. She took my blood pressure at the start, noticed it was abnormally high and decided not to use that measurement on the form. She also realized that the veins in my arm were too deep and she wasn’t going to be getting anywhere with them, so she broke out the smaller needle and just took it out of my hand, where the veins pop out a lot more. I could’ve hugged the woman. You know—if she weren’t wielding instruments of torture.

Don’t be fooled, though. I was still freaking out. Yes, I had to pee, and I was hungry, and the nurse was super duper nice about it. But when shit went down, I still had to go to my happy place till it was all over:

I think I carried myself off with as much dignity possible, given the situation. As much dignity as a grown-ass man on the verge of tears and doing the pee-pee dance can have. When it was all said and done, we finally got to go eat. And I stuffed my face with the ravenous gluttony of a high school football team. Then Karli talked me into banana splits at Sonic. “When you give blood, you get ice cream.”

“I didn’t give blood. It was taken.”

But damn that ice cream was good.

& literary greatness

Pure literary gold.

I’ve been getting in the habit of reading to Squatch. It’s never too early to start getting your kid interested in books. Especially if you’re a writer. That’s called job security.

We’ve amassed a pretty good collection of kids’ books already, especially after last weekend, when we had a baby shower down here that was book-themed. With the local library’s book sale going on last week before the shower, the people throwing it stocked up on a ton of books and sent them home with us. That means if Squatch isn’t a bookworm, Karli and I seriously screwed this up.

One of my favorite books I’ve read to Squatch is I Want My Hat Back. It’s not one we got from the shower—I ordered it online a little while back (because there are no bookstores around here, in case you’ve forgotten)—and I’ve read it to Squatch a couple times already. The artwork in it is pretty cool, but I find the story hilarious. Karli, however, does not.

Fair warning—there will be spoilers here. So if you’ve been putting off learning the ending to I Want My Hat Back till the movie comes out, you might not want to read on.

So the basic plotline is that the bear wants his hat back. That much you probably figured out. Well, <spoiler> the rabbit has it.</spoiler> He’s not the quickest bear, so it takes him a minute to figure out, but he eventually does. Then there’s a showdown. And as you can see here, <spoiler>he gets his hat back:</spoiler>

And what a fine hat it is.

Here’s where Karli takes issue with the book. How does the bear get his hat back? <major spoiler>HE EATS THE RABBIT!</spoiler>

Hi-freaking-larious!

Only Karli is slightly appalled that it’s in a kid’s book. The way that information is revealed, though, is probably a little hard to pick up on for the really little kids, but I think it’s the funniest part of the book.

I even called it. The first time we read it, we got to the page where the bear and rabbit are having their staredown. I said, “He’s going to eat that rabbit.” Karli said, “No he’s not. They’re not going to put that in a kid’s book.” Then the bear ate it.

I love it so much that I’ve started adding “and then he was eaten by a bear” to the end of every book.

Good Night Moon: “Good night noises everywhere.”
Ande: “And then he was eaten by a bear.”

Green Eggs and Ham: “Thank you! Thank you, Sam I am!”
Ande: “And then he was eaten by a bear.”

It’s an instant classic story ending.

Now, Karli’s favorite book for Squatch is called Mostly Monsterly.  We actually got it for free in a box of Cheerios. That version actually has the English and Spanish versions of it. Karli doesn’t like it when I read the Spanish parts to Squatch because I use my super-suave Telemundo voice. She thinks it’ll confuse Squatch.

We plan on buying the actual book, not the free bilingual Cheerios edition, but it’s a pretty cute story. The little monster in it is an interesting girl and it’s got a good message.

It’s just too bad what happens to her with that bear in the end. Tragic.