Baby Prep V: To-Do List of Things Not-to-Do

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Nov 082012

With just four days left until the arrival of Baby #3, a.k.a. Tres, I’ve thrown out my ridiculously long to-do list. It’s too much. These things aren’t going to happen. Instead, I’ve gone into CYA mode. At this point in the game, I just need to stay alive for four more days so I can meet this new baby. So here’s my list of what not to do between now and my wife’s imminent baby birthing:

1. Annoy my wife with inappropriate baby name suggestions. Apparently, she’s universally vetoed any variation of Jeff or Jefe Jr., and she’s not entertaining combos like [first name] Jazzy and [middle name] Jeff. This eliminates 87% of my name suggestions.

2. Name the baby a ridiculous, made-up word. If I can’t create a little walking eponym, then I just want to make sure this child doesn’t get one of these weird, made-up names that sounds like a soap opera vomited on an episode of Jersey Shore. You know what I’m talking about. You start with a questionable name choice, which may just be a random noun and not an actual name at all, and then intentionally misspell it or alter the pronunciation slightly. Maybe throw in a completely meaningless apostrophe. No. Absolutely not. Not that my wife is lobbying for one of these names, mind you, but things can get crazy when the name ideas are flying fast and furious in the waning hours before a child’s birth. I’m taking it upon myself to be vigilant against all horrible ideas that we might come up with. After all, as the maternity nurse said to us after we shared a few of our name ideas first child, “You know, he has to live with that name for the rest of his life.”

3. Pay too much attention to my wife’s belly. This is going to be a hard one. My wife is one of those thin, beautiful women who drive other women crazy by gaining pregnancy weight only in their bellies, and then instantly losing it all after childbirth. This is partially why “Belly Watch 2012” is so fascinating. Here’s this thin woman walking around with this enormous beach ball protruding from her midsection. Just when you think that thing can’t get any bigger, it does. And then it gets bigger again. And then you see tiny little foot go streaking across her belly like an alien trying to kick its way out of her abdomen. And then the whole thing bounces and shifts from one side to another like the baby is doing Pilates in there, which he/she might be if he/she is anything like our other kids. Most nights, watching her belly is more entertaining than TV. But I … must … restrain … myself. Apparently, women don’t like it when you stare at their midsection for long periods of time, even when they’re pregnant.

4. Write too many blog posts that mention my wife’s belly. See above. It’s not wise to poke a bear with a stick. But I’d do that 1,000 times before angering a 39-week pregnant woman. So I best tone it down.

And with that, I’ll sign off for the day.


Baby Prep, Part IV: Alternative Reasons to Get Excited

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Nov 052012

With the birth of our third child a week away, I’m pausing to ponder a few reasons why I’m excited to be a father of three. Yes, yes, there’s all the expected stuff, like bringing another child into this world and loving children, et cetera, et cetera. But those reasons are obvious, or at least they should be if you’re having a kid. Here are a few less-considered reasons:

1. It will give me a better excuse for constantly mixing up my family members’ names. I can’t keep the members of my family straight as it is. I call my son by my daughter’s name, my daughter by my son’s name, the dog by my daughter’s name, and my wife by the names of any random mixture of ex-girlfriends, distant cousins, old pets, and television sitcom characters. When my sister comes over to visit, I occasionally call her by the name I gave my pet hamster in third grade. And when some credit card company asks me a security question like, “What is your paternal grandmother’s first name,” I am completely at a loss. I don’t anticipate this situation to improve when we add another member to the family, but I do feel like it’ll give me a better excuse for my confusion. With two kids, you’re expected to keep things straight. With three—especially three in three years—maybe people will cut me some slack. I guess we’ll find out.

2. We can finally maximize our seven-passenger vehicle. A couple years ago, when we were just a family of three (plus the dog), we purchased a seven-passenger Jeep Commander. It’s big, it’s boxy, and it gulps gas like Lindsay Lohan downs margaritas while on house arrest. HOWEVER, it’s got automated everything and a killer four-wheel-drive system that could power seven passengers through two feet of snow on a slick mountain highway in a blizzard. This thing has about 37 different seating configurations, thanks to a foldable, three-part back seat and split third row. Now that we’re expanding the family to necessitate three cars seats, the Commander is finally getting a shot at doing what it was born to do. I’ve been pondering the optimum car seat-cargo area combinations for weeks.

So yesterday I went outside to try out a seating few combos, and what did I discover? My wife had already installed the new car seat in line with the other two—all three straight across the back seat. BORING! The configuration doesn’t take advantage of any of the 37 alternate seating options. Not one. She says it’s easier this way. Case closed. Damnit.

Oh, well. Dear grandparents and other adult visitors, guess who gets to climb in through the trunk to sit in the way, way back! Enjoy!

3. Maybe people will stop trying to give me more stuff to do. I am busy. I mean busy. I work full time, I have two kids under three, I play on two soccer teams, I’m in a band (that’s right, The Dad rocks), I volunteer at an at-risk youth charity, I’m starting a new business, I’m writing a book, I’ve been refinishing our basement, I do all the yard work and house maintenance, I try to spend as much time as humanly possible with my kids, and I am enrolled in a mandatory TV-beer-drinking program several nights a week. Busy. Every week, as I’m trying to stuff about 55 hours of work into 35 hours of childcare time, I think, how the hell am I going to add to this schedule when the third kid arrives?

The answer: I’m not. I’m just going to make more excuses. And I anticipate that people will accept them. Two kids and two working parents isn’t a novel story. Three kids under three, plus two working parents, plus not much family in town, well, that at least seems more impressive. We’re outnumbered, after all. So I plan to milk that situation for all it’s worth. Miss a deadline on a work project? “Sorry, it’s been crazy around the house lately.” Skip a friend’s kid’s birthday party? “Sorry, it’s a zoo over here.” Forget to send Christmas presents to any family members? “Oops, we’ve been overwhelmed recently.”

At least that’s what I’m selling. Hope someone is buying.

Oct 312012

As the arrival of baby #3 bears down on us, it’s time to start reconfiguring the domicile for our added resident. Apparently, this means giving up my nice, second-story home office with a view of the Rocky Mountains so we can move our son in here and the baby into his room. In case you care, I will be relegated to the basement, where my new view will include a metal step ladder leading out of a metal window well, four-feet below ground. I’ve already put a strike against the new kid for this affront.

Anyway, rearranging rooms means furniture purchases, which means a trip to Ikea. [Cue ominous music with Halloween-y scream in the background]

It’s appropriate that we visited Ikea during Halloween week because that store is both a carnival of wonders and a house of horrors. Once inside an Ikea, time seems to stand still, and you find yourself wandering endlessly, often in circles, hopelessly lost, while ghoulish characters in blue shirts jump out at you unexpectedly with crazy clown grins, scaring the bejesus out of you. And that’s before you even get the true Hall of Horror, the serve-yourself warehouse. Suburban couples have been known to wander into the warehouse, all organized with their neat little purchase lists, and are never heard from again. I’ve heard rumors that their decaying bones are recycled into sturdy bedroom furniture with funky Scandinavian names like the Büunes bed frame and Skëletov dresser. But those are just rumors, right?

Maybe a better analogy for Ikea is a Vegas casino. There are no clocks and there’s no natural light, so you never know what time it is. It’s also very easy to find things to spend money on (craps tables, bars with $14 Bud Lights, Svaad office chairs with adjustable arm rests), and very, very difficult to find things like exits or bathrooms. You could spend days inside on a hot streak, only to emerge bleary-eyed half a week later to find that your family has filed a missing person report on you. And while inside, just like a good casino, you may very well have bet your first born child, only instead of a handful of plastic $100 chips, your Ikea trip lands you a new dinette set made from a composite of fiber board and the lost dreams of childless yuppie couples.

How do you get in and out of Ikea alive, and not completely broke? You form a strict game plan and stick to it. Or at least that’s what we thought. This cartoon documents our recent Ikea experience.


Baby Prep, Part I: T-minus 14 Days and Counting

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Oct 292012

We are two weeks out from baby #3. Time to officially start panicking.

Okay, not really. That just sounded like a dramatic way to set up this post. In actuality, we’re pretty well prepared, and we’ve been through this drill before. So I’ve adopted a laid back attitude, and I expect Number Three (we’ll call him/her “Tres” for short) to fit right into the system. However, there are two things that concern me:

1. Prioritized to-do lists. Last night, my wife told me that she wants to create a “priority list” of all the things we need to do before the baby arrives. This means a spreadsheet. My wife loves spreadsheets. There’s a spreadsheet for everything around here. Coming to visit us from out of town? You’ll get a spreadsheet of possible activities. Wondering what to be for Halloween? Here’s a spreadsheet of ideas. Pondering the Thanksgiving menu? Spreadsheet. Christmas gift ideas? You know that’s a spreadsheet. Too many spreadsheets to keep track of? Let’s make a spreadsheet to organize the spreadsheets.

I give her a hard time, but my wife is actually both a creative and organizational genius. That means these spreadsheets are loaded not only with organizational data buy clever action items. All sorts of brilliant solutions to all sorts of confounding quandaries. HOWEVER, when that creative/organizational genius is nine-and-a-half months pregnant and barely able to touch her toes, guess who gets to act on the action items. Uh-huh. That’s right. This guy.

2. Newborn infant skills. It’s only been 18 months since our last child was born. And about another 18 months before that when we welcomed our first. Regardless of this recent experience, I have completely forgotten everything about caring for a newborn human being. It’s like I blocked out those phases of my life, along with the spring semester of my sophomore year in college and my 10th birthday party, which my parents held at a nuclear power plant. When it comes to newborns, all I can remember is dangerously low sleep totals, lots of diaper changing, and a small creature who really has no interest in me, seeing as how my breast milk production is woefully inadequate.

I’m also a little nervous that I’m going to break the poor thing. My two existing children are hyper mobile and tough as nails. We rough house a lot. One of their favorite games is “Tackle Daddy,” and they bring a lot of gusto. My 18 month old hits me a full speed with an enthusiasm that many sportscasters feel is lacking from free safeties in the modern era of professional football. So with all that going on, there’s a) a real fear that I will forget that I’m holding an infant who can’t be roughly flipped on his/her back and tickled until he/she hyperventilates, and b) a clear and present danger than when I’m holding this infant, one or both of the previously described monsters will attempt to tackle me, bringing down the whole entourage in a painful crash.

I better just baby proof the entire house in foam and hope for the best.

A Conversation You Should NOT Have with Your Pregnant Wife

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Aug 282012

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, The Third Trimester, a.k.a. The Seventh Circle of Hell, I thought I’d post a cautionary conversation. This for all the guys out there. It’s a conversation that you should not have with your pregnant wife.

The Scene: About seven months ago. I had just returned from a short trip to Portland. The kids were ostensibly asleep in their rooms when I got home, and my wife sat me down in the family room.

The Wife: I have some news.

The Dad: What happened? Did one of the kids break the TV?

The Wife: No.

The Dad: The iPad? Did they break the iPad?

The Wife: No.

The Dad: Did someone vomit in my ski boots again?

The Wife: No!

The Dad: Okay, what did they do? Wait, is everyone alive?

The Wife: Nothing. And yes.

The Dad: Okay, then what’s up?

The Wife: I’m pregnant.

The Dad: Oh. Well, that’s good news, too, I suppose.

The Wife: I appreciate your enthusiasm.

The Dad: So we’re doing this. Right on. Okay, I’m psyched. I, um, just have one request.

The Wife: Don’t you think that asking me to carry a third baby in three years is enough?

The Dad: Yes, but maybe in addition to that, you could try to be a little nicer to me during this pregnancy. Particularly, uh, during the third trimester.

The Wife: What do you mean?

The Dad: Do you remember how irritated you got at me the end of your last pregnancies? I mean, I get it, you’re big and uncomfortable, but do you remember how you kind of took that out on me?

She just sat there staring at me.

The Dad: Do you remember? Lot of yelling. Some objects might have been thrown in my general direction. I was always in trouble. That sort of thing.

She just kept staring at me. On the surface, she seemed calm, but there was an ever-so-slight hint of impending doom. A smart man would have called it quits right there and backed away slowly and nonthreateningly, as if he’d just startled a mama grizzly bear with her cubs. But I am not a smart man, apparently, because I just kept talking.

The Dad: Do you remember? It was a pretty rough patch for the ol’ dad over here.

Jesus. Shut up, man! Shut up, shut up, shut up! Save your ass and get out of there.

The Dad: Do you remember any of this? I’m not going to say it was the hormones—

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! Damnit! You said the “H” word. What is wrong with you? You’re a dead man now. Dear god, that’s it. You’re done. Oh, well, it was a good run.

There was a long pause. Then my wife spoke.

The Wife: Do you remember what it takes to make a baby?

The Dad: [Swallowing nervously] Yes.

The Wife: Are you sure? Do you remember that act?

The Dad: Um, yes.

The Wife: Good, because that memory will need to sustain you for a looooooong time.