Showers (#250)

Ah, the baby shower.

Traditionally, these all-women events involved opening boxes of baby clothes and cooing over them. Many showers had guessing games. I’ve played everything from “What chocolate bar has been melted in this diaper?” to “Is this white powder baking soda, cornstarch, or flour?” 

Since I’m a chocoholic, an amateur baker, and competitive as fuck, I won all the traditional baby showers (even when the hostess tried to trick me by throwing in cream of tartar). 

Despite winning, baby showers were my least favorite kind of parties. There’s no dancing. The focus is all on babies. Babies are not my thing, not after spending my teen years taking care of multiple baby siblings. Traditional showers also reinforce traditional gender roles and stereotypes. While it’s nice for women to bond over pregnancy horror stories and share advice on newborns and nursing, you know who really needs an education on everything from perineal tearing to colic?

Men.

Something like 50% of all men don’t know where the vagina is. Kinda sad for women. Occasionally these numpties will double down on their mistake–even when when a gynecologist tells them off. Most men are pretty self-centered bastards; if it doesn’t impact them, they don’t bother learning about it. We women often enable this behavior, becoming uber competent, shoving “useless” men aside, and rolling our eyes over male befuddlement on everything from bottle warmers to umbilical cords. 

So-called progressive men become Beto O’Rourkes, merely “sometimes” helping with childrearing. They get kudos for babysitting their own children.

Not in my house. My husband was the driving force behind our decision to have a baby. Yet I was the one who had already suffered through 8 months of misery, with (spoiler alert!) the worst part still to come. No way was everything else gonna be on me, too.

Yeah, I made those.

Starting with our baby shower. We planned a coed afternoon tea party and invited seventy of our friends, neighbors, and relatives. Andy was in charge of the little tea sandwiches (smoked salmon, cucumber, and curried egg salad). I baked for days, creating petits fours in multiple flavors, plus iced cookies and scones. 

Our house is small, but our patio and yard are large (for Los Angeles). We planned an outdoor event during what is usually a not very wet month. About a week in advance, I checked the weather. 

I discovered that of course Los Angeles was going to do its best impression of Seattle for an entire week. The heaviest rainfall was expected on the day of Baby D’s shower. Because that’s the kind of relationship I have with precipitation

I checked the weather every hour for 48 hours. The raindrops in on the weather icon grew more numerous.

We would never fit seventy people in our house. I called around and got the last marquee tent in Los Angeles for our patio. Andy was so relieved he didn’t even complain about the cost. 

Since this atmospheric river was swooping down from the north, it was unseasonably cold. We begged, borrowed, and bought multiple space heaters.

Once the tent was up, our rescue dogs thought their new patio cover was the bomb. They ran in and out, wrestling. An hour before the shower, they wiped out one of the supporting legs. The tent listed. The decorative swags we’d hung were in jeopardy. I held up the tent while Andy corralled the dogs. Rain dripped into my hair.

Fey and Woofie were banished to the garage to contemplate their sins (i.e., howl in protest until they got bully sticks). 

Boyfriend Stealing Baby Sister and her California Boyfriend arrived just in time to help Andy repair the tent. Then they were drafted to make sandwiches while I dried my hair (again). They were were still cutting off crusts when our first guests arrived.

Mike and Enid were original homeowners in our neighborhood. He was a big man who’d lived through combat in World War II, yet was scared of coming to a baby shower for the first time. “I don’t know about this,” he boomed as his tiny wife pushed him into our house. “Enid said everyone’s invited, that it’s the modern thing, but men at a baby shower? Maybe I should go to the VFW instead.”

Tea party

I steered Mike over to a chair on the patio with a plate of goodies. Another elderly neighbor joined him. They admired the food and the cozy tent before reminiscing about all the babies born on the block in the fifties.

My Japanese volleyball comrades arrived next. They also exclaimed over the tent and the decorations. Next came Andy’s cousins. The cousins brought their husbands and wine. Multiple bottles, in fact.

As I waddled around delivering wineglasses, I overheard cousin-in-law Bubba telling Andy about filming his daughter’s delivery via C-section: “They put up this sheet, so my wife couldn’t see what was going on, but I’m standing, so I film over it. But man, they’re not just cutting her open, they are literally pulling out organs. And next thing you know, I’m starting to sway and they get a chair and I sit. So whatever you do, if there’s a C-section, man, do not look.”

Other husbands nodded in agreement. One mentioned how he freaked out when his baby was born yellow. He got some wicked side-eye from a few of the Asian Dads until he clarified that he meant jaundice and showed them a picture of his newborn wearing goggles under a lamp. 

Showers are usually a socially acceptable way to collect baby loot, but not for us. Andy and I had gotten a ton of baby hand-me-downs from my older siblings. We had two infant car seats already, a slightly gnawed regular crib, a portable crib, and a ton of gender neutral clothes ranging from newborn to age two (thanks to Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister, who refused to allow dresses or the color pink near her two daughters). Our tiny house couldn’t house much more baby paraphernalia. There was no registry on our invitation.

Despite this, my friend JK brought Baby D his own soft blanket. Andy’s aunt and uncle staggered in under the weight of an enormous jogging stroller (which had to go into the garage immediately). A few other guests brought cute outfits or toys, but many just showed up to eat and swap stories. Just like a regular party.

And no, we didn’t play any games, though we sent our guests home with mugs bearing a snowflake and the warning message: “Baby D, Arriving This Winter.”

On their way out, we encouraged folks to fill their snowflake mug with baked goods and candy. Most of them didn’t need much urging.

Our neighbor Mike was the last to leave. “Enid!” he boomed, waving a mug full of cookies. “I got a party favor, see?! How about that? I can’t believe you and the girls have been holding out on me all this time, having baby showers like a secret club. Those sandwiches were good. And cakes! The VFW is small potatoes compared to this.”

I gave Mike an extra mug with some petits fours and said, “See, Mike?Showers aren’t all bad.”

And that C-section advice from Bubba? Yeah, that came in real handy. But that’s another post.

Custard’s Last Stand (#230)

Our neighborhood holds a cooking contest over Labor Day weekend. The hostess picks a different ingredient or theme each year.

My husband Andy is an amazing cook. He won until the year of the potato. I snuck in a potato flake cake from a 50s recipe. My chocolate crushed the competition – including my husband. The following year, the hostess split the competition, creating two different categories: one for savory items, one for sweets.

Last year Andy didn’t enter a savory dish. He says it was because it was a hundred degrees and there was no way he was turning on the stove. Continue reading Custard’s Last Stand (#230)

Of Cursed Birthdays (#220)

When I was a kid, birthdays were a big deal.

As an adult? Well, after your 25th birthday, when your car insurance bill drops, there’s not a lot to look forward to. Besides, no birthday could ever live up to my 10th, when I got a kitten and pierced ears.

My husband tried, though. Andy made me a cake the first year we were together. It was beautiful: nicely frosted, with my name written across it, even. Andy is a fantastic cook. I know it. He knows it. Everyone knows it, probably because I brag about it all the time. I expected the cake to be delicious.

I took a bite. The cake was moist. It was sweet.

Other than that, it had absolutely no flavor. Continue reading Of Cursed Birthdays (#220)

West Versus East: The Birthday Edition (#219)

In my childhood house of a thousand siblings, there was only one day more exciting than Christmas.

My birthday.

On my birthday, I got to sit at the head of the breakfast table and preside over a plate of powdered doughnuts with candles. Powdered doughnuts might not seem very exciting compared to the Krispy Kremes and Voodoo doughnut delicacies of today, but back then they were a huge treat. Especially to a kid in a big family on a budget. Continue reading West Versus East: The Birthday Edition (#219)

Warning: Slow Cook in the Kitchen (#203)

My kitchen at the height of Baking Season: Christmas.

When we get new neighbors, I usually take them a plate of baked goods. If they’re lucky, the newbies moved in between October and December, which my husband dubbed “Baking Season.” Baking Season starts with cream cheese sugar cookies shaped like fall leaves and moves onto maple cream pie, apple pie, maple sugar rugelach, and candy cane meringues.

The new neighbors usually bring back an empty plate and sexist mouthful of compliments. “You’re a fantastic cook! Your husband is so lucky!”

Continue reading Warning: Slow Cook in the Kitchen (#203)

Cooking & Competition (#198)

My neighborhood has an annual Labor Day cooking contest. The hostess decides on the type of food, the neighbors cook up their best dishes, and everyone at the party votes for their favorite. The year we moved in, the competition was for the best homemade salsa.

I’m competitive as hell, but I’m not a good cook. Luckily, my husband is an excellent cook, and he makes an amazing homemade salsa.

“Ha-ha,” I carolled. “They may as well hand over that prize now!” Continue reading Cooking & Competition (#198)

Chocolate Thievery (#186)

A big family and not quite enough food can mess you up for life. My sisters and I learned to eat fast, hunching protectively over our plates. But no matter how fast we ate, Big Brother would finish first. Then he’d inevitably loom over us, asking, “Are you gonna eat that?”

If our mouths were too full to answer, he’d take that as a no.

Fork duels ensued. Continue reading Chocolate Thievery (#186)

When the Cavalry Sucks (#181)

You know those big, dysfunctional but lovable white families you used to see in television and film? They were all about siblings being super shitty to each other. Yet when one member of the family was threatened, the family closed ranks and fended off the attacker.

I grew up in a huge, white, broken, dysfunctional family.

I thought those stories were bullshit. Continue reading When the Cavalry Sucks (#181)

Thanks (#160)

Andy and I didn’t travel this Thanksgiving. We’re staying in LA and having dinner with his three cousins, their spouses, and his aunt and uncle. Andy’s happy, because it’s low stress and highly economical.

He’s got a point. Yet I’m sad I’m not with my own white and uptight family, playing hearts and pigging out. This year, we wouldn’t even fight over politics — even Republican Big Brother agreed that Trump is a walking horror show. Continue reading Thanks (#160)

Over the Moon (#147)

My Chinese-American husband grew up in Hawaii, then moved to Los Angeles. Not only did he not care about different seasons, I’m not even sure he knew what they were until I took him to New Hampshire and Washington D.C.

His immigrant family wasn’t big on holidays, either, whether American or Chinese. The man didn’t even have a Christmas stocking until I gave him one. Continue reading Over the Moon (#147)