Thursday, November 29, 2012

Playing Defense

With my wife in full on nesting stage, shopping with her can be a like a game of chess.  The mere mentioning of “picking up a few things” triggers a defense mechanism and I become similar to a coach before a big game.  I quickly begin to implement a game plan, devising several simple yet cunning maneuvers that begin long before we enter the store. 
Driving routes, parking, and even choosing a point of entry can be crucial when attempting to withstand the onslaught of promotions, sales, and clearance events that await my susceptible wife as she enters a store.

football play board
Before the pregnancy, her penchant for walking into a salesperson’s trap was a manageable expenditure that while I couldn’t always rationalize, was accepted as one of those things I can’t change.  But now--with a list exceeding any and all imaginable baby products of which I never knew existed--stores such as Target and Walmart have become killing fields loaded with landmines and traps bound to snag even the thriftiest of consumers.

This was painfully evident on a recent trip to Plow & Hearth in Charlottesville, Virginia.  We made the trip after my wife found a decorative fireplace grate in their seasonal magazine, (I had failed to intercept this before it found its way into her hands).
We parked and were immediately flanked from all angles as the barrage of stores in the shopping center loomed in the distance.  The first blitz of stores had my wife oohing and ahhing at the mere mention of the brands lurking inside.  But I remained calm as I had one factor firmly on my side, pregnancy. 
“That’s so cute… I wish I could still wear cute clothes.”  My wife exclaimed longingly as she walked by the threatening store which under normal circumstances would have me trembling with fear.
Instead I smiled wisely, feeling confident under the protective shield of maternity.  But I wasn't about to get cocky, I knew what lay in my path. A store with large, expensive items, items set perfectly under dim, cozy lighting designed to give them a homey, warm feel. 
Plow & Hearth StoreOnce inside, I headed straight for the item we came for, which wasn’t in stock and would have to be ordered.  Meanwhile my wife was left alone to perused the store, as the unabated sales persons chatted her up as she wandered ever so far away from the on sale items. I watched helplessly as I spoke with the cashier, cursing under my breath as I had fallen for the old trick play being flawlessly carried out in front of my very eyes.
I snatched my receipt, thanking the lady while refusing to fill out the card for some kind of drawing, I know stalling tactics when I see them lady! I muscled through the crowd in hopes of a goal line stand. But it was too late, I found my wife in the back of the store and heard the words I’ve come to fear: 
“You’ve got to see this.”  I knew what that meant, it means look what we’re buying.
The rest of the trip went according to plan.  We made some bathroom stops, avoided clothing stores, and even made it through a few shops without any damage to the wallet.  I would have been proud of myself; I had stuck to the plan, and--except for one significant lapse--played defense exceptionally well.
The sun was setting as we began our journey home, leaving an amber glow on the mountains in the distance.  My wife turned down the radio as she looked over at me and smiled.
"I think that chair will be perfect for the living room.”
I grinned, nodding my head in agreement before hearing a faint whisper escape my wife’s lips as she turned to the window.  My stupid grin quickly vanished as I realized what exactly I had heard.  It sounded like…..Checkmate.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Male Pregnancy Hormones - What's Going On?

HormonesI’ve been reading about the changes men undergo during pregnancy.  Yes, men.  Although I fully understand that we get the better end of the pregnancy deal, it seems that we do in fact, go through some changes as well.  As the female hormones run rampant in my wife's body,  I was surprised to find that--in an effort to prepare for my role as nurturer--my levels of testosterone, competitiveness, and aggression will continue to decrease by roughly a third once the baby is here.  
Maybe this explains why I’ve hardly watched any football in the past month.  Or the fact that I was really excited about watching Christmas movies last weekend.  I'm not saying that I've become feminine, but this morning I caught myself performing “jazz hands” while getting dressed for work. 
It all makes sense now, last week when I found myself thinking that my truck was impractical, or the other day when I thought I could really go for a salad.  Words such as cute or adorable, have replaced grunts or mumbling.  What is happening to me? 
I’m even planning artsy craftsy projects.  Over the weekend, I bought a wooden plane for the baby's room that I plan on painting.  What’s wrong with that you ask?  An expectant father planning a project for his son. Well nothing, until...

“You’re going to paint?”  My wife asked, following up with, “You’re going to spend more than two minutes on something and pay attention to detail?”
“Yep, I’m going to paint the wings red, and maybe put some stripes on them.  Not sure about the propeller…”  I caught myself coordinating the color scheme of the plane with the curtains.  Dear God, how did this happen?
I’m very comfortable with myself, but some of these feelings are very new to me.  I’m excited, very excited, and now if it wasn’t enough to have a pregnant woman in the house, in a way we have two.
A Princess For Christmas movieI may not be showing, and I'm pretty sure I'm not carrying a baby, but how am I supposed to interact with other males without blurting out which exfoliating cream was on sale last weekend?  I'm not far away from the following scenario:
“Hey Pete did you see the game Saturday?”
“No, but you know what I did catch?  The commercial-free airing of A Princess For Christmas on The Hallmark Channel.  It was adorable!”

Okay, hopefully it never gets that bad, but I did watch Home Alone instead of football on a Saturday night, (My team had just lost to its rival and is out of the post-season anyway), while eating ice cream on the couch with my wife.  We were only a cucumber facial mask away from a pajama party sleepover...
Oh well,  I suppose I’ve never been the manliest of men anyway.  I don’t hunt, I don’t watch UFC, and I have a blog; so maybe the hormones didn’t need much help to begin with.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

You, me, and baby make….six?

Zoo entranceMy house is a zoo.  Between our two dogs and our one cat we are only a goat away from charging admission.  Now as we prepare to welcome a human to the mix and even up the pet to person ratio, I can’t help but wonder, is it too much?

We try to make good decisions.  We pay down our credit cards, we rarely eat out, we don’t rent furniture.  But for some reason we collect pets.  I wish I could blame this solely on my wife, but to be honest, I’m a sucker for a dog.

Our household could already be described as overwhelming at times, add the pending chaos of a brand new baby to the mix and things should get interesting. I’m sure that Baby Simon, from the warm confines of the womb, is already well aware of the sound a doggie makes.

Our oldest dog, Bruce, has already taken to sleeping in front of the crib. My wife and I feel like he knows what’s going on and looking forward to the new addition.  He’ll be the baby’s best friend, no worries here.

Dog in front of baby crib
Where's the baby?

The cat is just a cat.  He’s in, he’s out, and he’s pretty low maintenance, we don’t even have a litter box.  If there’s food in the bowl, he’s all set.  At times I forget we even have a cat.  He and I pretty much go our separate ways.

orange cat

This leaves us with Mason, the loose cannon of the house.  I’ve documented many of Mason’s escapades and he will, and does, keep it interesting.  Mason is a spoiled brat, the worst kind of a pest there is.  When we first found out we were expecting, we hoped the 9 months would give him time to mature.  We’re still waiting…

Dog shreds stuffed animal
I made snow!

I’m hoping he will surprise us, but there has been little evidence of this in our trial runs.  Children put him on edge, he just can’t seem to figure them out.  Usually when friends drop by with children, Bruce will welcome them, at times too enthusiastically, wagging and wiggling with excitement.  Mason however, will circle the kid, sniffing while inspecting the small unusual being, ready to bolt or let out an annoying bark at the first sign of danger.  As an expectant father, I worry how our wild child is going to react to our real child.

He has made some strides though, and one day he just may be a normal dog. But I would like to see him settle down a bit before I bring home a helpless child.  In the meantime, I need to do a better job of keeping the stuffed animals off of the floor.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Because We're Idiots...

I wrote this over at Hubpages a while back in response to a girl who asked why her boyfriend always argued with her.  I tried my best to explain it here:
Men. Simply put, we’re idiots. And it doesn't pain me to say it because it has been proven time and time again. It is one of the true things in this world that cannot be changed. As males, most of us do not make great decisions, except of course for the decision to be with you.
Raving mad idiotSince the dawn of mankind we have been stubborn, stupid creatures. Left alone, we will eat pizza, drink beer and watch sports. That's it, and we will contently live out our days doing so. We will communicate through a series of grunts and one word answers, and never, ever, express our feelings.
A woman in our life helps us grow and become better men. As the old saying goes, behind every great man there is a great woman. And that woman is right most of the time. A guy may have a Nobel prize sitting on the mantle and yet has never won an argument with his wife.
Progress isn't easy, we will fight it as long as we are able to do so. We will kick and scream until all we have left is the argument. And then we lose that. Women are better equipped to win an argument than men. Most of them think before they speak and see the big picture beyond the next few days.  (Women will actually plan what to have for dinner, sometimes even days in advance).
When my wife and I get into an argument, I will passionately argue my case, more often than not attempting in vain to prove my point. Most of the times I will make a huge fuss and production only to find out later that she was in fact, right all along. Now I can’t just admit that I was wrong after expending so much energy fighting for my cause and what I believed was right, so I have to continue to fight, despite being once again, in the wrong.
Sometimes I will continue to argue, going on and on as I state my points and make my case. As I get on a roll, I catch fire and cannot be stopped, my voice gains strength as my confidence mounts. Finally, I look over at my wife and notice her staring at me, curious as to when I will stop having a conversation with myself. I feel foolish and childlike, I want to stomp off and out of the room. She was right.
Other times I look for a loophole, a technicality that allows me to save face. This way I don’t have to say it, you know…it, anything to keep me from saying it yet again. Didn't I just say it last week? You’re right honey. Yeah, that hurts. I was wrong once again….again!
Maybe it's in the DNA, a flaw in the Y chromosome. I've read about a woman who was born with male DNA and female parts, talk about an inner struggle. This poor woman has never won an argument with anyone.
Maybe it all started when Eve gave the I told you so look to Adam. The patented look that says, you’re an idiot. We don’t care about hand towels, paint color schemes, window dressings, or matching picture frames. We care about fourth quarter comebacks, pizza, and the lawn mower. And the dog, we care about the dog.
As for women who wonder why men continue to argue, I suggest you that you just be the bigger person and let your man have the last word. He’s probably so sick and tired of trying to argue with your logical points he’s exhausted. Let him use words such as So, or Whatever, this may be all he has left in his arsenal. Deep down he knows your right, again, just don't make hims say it...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Standing Firm...

Last night my wife and I went to the nearby hospital for a tour of the maternity center.  We joined six or seven other expectant couples and in between pee breaks, we familiarized ourselves with the area. 

Our tour guide led us to the front desk, the delivery room, the recovery room, and everything in between while also going over procedures and protocols that were standard and in compliance with many regulations that I did not pay full attention to.

While in the recovery room, which was very nice and almost resembled more of a hotel room than hospital, our instructor informed us that it was here that our baby would be ready for his pictures and, for those having boys, circumcising. 

Here we go...

My wife raised her hand--or she may not have, actually I'm certain that she didn't--and asked:  

“Do both parents have to sign the consent form?”  Twelve heads whipped around towards us in unison, trying to locate the source of such an odd question.

My face, elevated from it's normal stand by shade of semi pale to an immediate code red, was now flushed and broadcasted what could be described as a pleasant scowl.

“Uh, no just one.”  The instructor answered, her tone pleasant and neutral.

This did little to mitigate my wife's concern, as she looked back at me with helpless resignation, as if she were touring a puppy mill.  I stood stoically behind her, attempting to put forth the look of the strong silent type, praying silently that she wouldn't start her tangent about mutilation and cruelty.

“I think nearly 90% of parents opt for the circumcision.” The instructor went on,  but this did little to satisfy my wife.  She mumbled something to the effect of not in Africa, which I didn’t understand nor acknowledge because I didn’t feel like having this ongoing debate in front of an audience.

And it has been a debate.  This is the only decision I have been adamant about.  My wife thinks it’s cruel and will cause unnecessary harm to our son.  I counter by telling her that I’m the expert in this department.  I don’t remember it, it’s done quickly and then it’s over with.

For those who aren’t circumcised or have elected not to circumcise their sons, that is fine too.  This just happens to be the one thing I request, and I don't feel that it's too much.

My wife finally let it pass, and we continued the short tour without incident.  I’m sure that this won’t be the first time we don’t see eye to eye on decisions for our son, and I’m sure she will more often than not get her way.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Vacation...

macbook, coffee
I’m typing this while lounging in my pajamas at 8:45 on a Tuesday morning. I feel a hint of remorse for my wife, she has just left the house after a frantic early morning ritual of getting ready for work.   I woke up to her racket, crawling out of bed to find her rushing through her morning routine, debating which maternity shirt looked less like pajamas while hiking up the elastic waistband of her jeans.  Before my eyes had fully adjusted, she hurried off to school, leaving the house quiet and tranquil in her absence.   

As for me, I’m not sure when I’ll get dressed to actually begin my day.  At some point I will need to walk the dogs, but they seem completely content as of now, curled up sleeping peacefully in the quiet house.  After my wife left, I poured a bowl of cheerios, wearing an old pair of jogging pants and a wrinkled long sleeved shirt, running a hand through my unkempt hair.  So goes my life this week...

Due to the pregnancy, we have cancelled a trip to Jamaica along with the drive north to upstate New York for Christmas.  This left me with some unused vacation, and leaves me here, using up vacation days on this week of Thanksgiving, lounging around the house while writing blog posts and watching MadMen reruns in between jaunts with the dogs.  Yesterday, I piddled around the yard with the rake, but then I remembered.  I’m on vacation!  As an expectant father I had better enjoy this me time while I can.

I would like to say I could get used to this, but I’m already starting to—I can’t believe I’m typing this, miss work.  Not enough to go in on my own time mind you, but I miss the structure of my day.  I’m not sure I could stay home full time, not that it’s an option.  I'm sure a baby would keep me busy, but---oh, it looks like one of the dogs just woke up, time for a walk!  Life is tough for a stay at home dad...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Too Much Christmas?

Pumkin Turkey Santa Hat
It seems no sooner than when Halloween ends, the deluge of Christmas decorations hit the stores.  The music begins, the commercials hit the airwaves, and pretty soon, we’re staring at two months of Christmas cheer directly in the face.

Black Friday has now been pushed to late Thursday.  Before we even finish our leftovers it's time to get a jump on the crowds for that fourth 46 inch television for the kitchen! 

So when is it time to begin the Holiday season?

My wife and I have been back and forth on this debate for the better part of the week.  In an ideal world, I would begin decorating for Christmas somewhere between December 1st and 10th.  That gives everyone a little time to transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  My wife was ready to decorate last weekend.  I was able to hold her off, but it looks like my Friday after Thanksgiving will be filled with the task of untangling hastily put away Christmas lights in the attic.

The other part of this debate is when to take our decorations down.  I’m a day after Christmas kind of guy.  The tree is dead, the garland has lost its luster, and I’m ready to start fresh for the new year.  My wife however, would leave everything up well into the first week of January.  Just typing that sentence makes me cringe.  Our compromise?  New Years Day, I will celebrate by taking everything down.  You can imagine how I feel about people who leave their Christmas lights up all year.

I suppose I’m sort of an after Christmas Grinch.  Fine by me.  Once it’s over, I have no use for red bows, garland, messy trees, not to mention my electric bill from powering all of those lights in the yard. 

I remember this same debate when I was a child.  My father was ready to take everything down on Christmas day, while my stepmother, if she had her way, would leave the tree carcass up until Easter.  New Year’s day would come along and my dad would be itching at the chance to start yanking decorations off of the brittle tree limbs.  Usually by January 2nd, it was go time, my stepmother would relent and my father and I would have the tree stripped, removed, and out on the lawn in under 10 minutes.  She would stand by, arms crossed while making sure nothing was broken, shaking her head at the two of us working diligently together. It was an art form.

Whatever your customs, I think we can all agree that two months of Christmas is ridiculous.  We already have Christmas in July, before black Friday sales, after Christmas sales, get a jump on next Christmas sales, It’s never too early to think about Xmas 2014 sales etc.  Christmas is a great time of year, everyone’s a little cheerier,kids are excited, and it’s a great time for charity.  I love Christmas, there’s nothing like it….in DECEMBER.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Better With Age...

David Lee Roth World Tour 1986I can't say that I’ve always had my exceptional musical taste. When I was 11, David Lee Roth parted ways with Van Halen and started a solo career.  His "world tour" led him to Roanoke, Virginia, where my father decided to take me for my first concert.  The big night arrived and after combing our matching mullets to perfection, we headed to the show for a guy's night out.

Never having been to one of these things before, I was wide-eyed with excitement as we walked past all of the sights in the parking lot on our way into the packed civic center.  We passed all sorts of characters, this was 1986, and most in attendance looked like the villains in those high school movies my sister watched.

Inside, the opening act was Cinderella, a typical 80’s hair band with lots of make up and really bad vocals.  It was loud, extremely loud, almost as loud as that crash up car derby my father had taken me to the previous year.  We found our seats but I’m pretty sure Dad let me break the no caffeine after 2pm rule, so I had to use the bathroom.  We fought our way down the steps, making our way once again past shady characters with jean jackets and long hair.   I stayed close, thankful to be near my dad in the midst of all of the hooligans.

Inside the bathroom, I noticed smoke coming from one of the stalls, why are their two guys in there?  And then the smell hit me.   Something foreign and very distinct, something I wouldn’t smell again for quite a few more years.  My dad whisked me out of the bathroom, the conversation went something like this:

“Dad, what was that smell.”

“I’ll tell you later.”

I never did find out what that smell was that night, but the concert was great.  I’m pretty sure we left before the final encore, but it was a great time of bonding with my dad.  I learned a lot that night as well.  On our way to the concert, I remember thinking how grown up I was going to a rock concert.  When we left, I was overwhelmed and grateful that I still had a few more years of being a kid.

Growing up, my musical taste was all over the map.  From David Lee Roth to The Fat Boys, most of us experience with all types of music as we age. I’m a product of the 80’s, so I can’t say I’m proud of everything I listened to, but we had our classics. I still perk up when I hear Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince.

Today’s music is, well, not classic.  Some of this stuff is bad.  Really, really bad.  Maybe I’m just old, but what fills our pop radio airwaves is beyond awful.  I’m lucky in a way, my son will have missed the Justin Bieber stage. While I feel like I dodged a bullet, I worry what else is coming. The sad truth is that one day a fledgling singer will list JB among his influences…..and they won't mean James Brown.

What kind of concerts will I have to endure?  Somewhere, there’s a 7 or 8 year old kid practicing singing or rapping or something that I haven’t been subjected to that is going to cost me money.  His mother will post his/her singing on youtube and then it will go viral.  After that the kid will become a global icon and be forced into my household via my kid.  I may have to shell out $40 or $50 bucks to hear said kid perform in 10 years.  I will go to work humming and singing these awful songs that are stuck in my head after constantly hearing them.  These are the things that keep me up at night.  

My only saving grace is that we’re having a boy, but there's still cause for concern.  Maybe I can just force him to listen to Led Zeppelin like my father did after our David Lee Roth experience, and hope everything else will work itself out.