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.

To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

I’ve never been fragile. Born into a large family of semi-feral children, I learned to guard my food and my stuffed animals early. I mowed lawns, lifted weights, and fought dirty with siblings when necessary (also when unnecessary).

Sympathy and coddling were in short supply. Like most young women, I powered through feeling like crap when I had cramps, headaches, and nausea.

The “I can endure misery” mindset was helpful when I was pregnant. I continued working out and playing volleyball, since the endorphins helped me not puke all the time. I still walked my rescue dogs for miles. My only concession to pregnancy was lighter weights and no squats.

This astounded people.

Continue reading To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

Once upon a time, my future husband gave me thoughtful, expensive presents. On one of our early dates, we rode an elephant together (before we knew better, sorry, wildlife defenders everywhere). Elephants had been my favorite animal as a child, in part because “elephants never forget.” Not being forgotten is the childhood fantasy of every middle child in an enormous family who has been left at school, ballet, or the Trailways bus station.

Andy didn’t forget why I loved elephants or our date. Andy got me a gold and emerald elephant pendant for Christmas that year.

Andy learned I liked old-fashioned, unique jewelry. He found an Edwardian ring design and worked with a jeweler to have it modified and cast in platinum for an engagement ring. 

I said yes. Eventually

Continue reading Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

New Year’s & All That Noise (#243)

A few years ago, a thirty-something couple moved into the house behind us. They had two girls under age five and another baby on the way. When the mom told me that her husband once danced and sang on a table, I assumed she was indulging in nostalgia rather than foreshadowing.

Until festive lights went up in the backyard. This was followed by a disco ball, loud music, and the chanting of “Drink, drink, drink!”

Another neighbor called and asked where the frat party was.

“At the newborn’s house,” I replied.

Continue reading New Year’s & All That Noise (#243)

The Dogs of Christmas (#242)

When I was a little girl, my mother organized caroling and a party on Christmas Eve. We sang our way around the block in Washington D.C. We were met with universal delight. Those were magical times

My Ex-Stepmother carried on the tradition in the suburbs of D.C. and then New England.

Until I dated a guy from rural Tennessee over the holiday season, I never thought some people might find caroling…odd.

Continue reading The Dogs of Christmas (#242)

Something Is Under the House (#236)

I thought I’d made peace with the freaky-assed crawl space below our house in Los Angeles. It’s not a nice, solid basement, but makes sense to have easy access to plumbing and the electrical lines for our drip system. And after multiple years, the only scary thing lurking under our house had turned out to be our own mischievous dog.

Until recently. Continue reading Something Is Under the House (#236)

A Night Schooling #(228)

When my husband and I decided to live near a school, we expected kids and traffic. We definitely got kids and traffic, twice a day for about a half-hour.

We also got a huge, empty field that our big dogs could cavort on at 6 AM on the weekends. The school was almost never locked, and no one else was up at that hour. I brought a chucker. The dogs had a blast chasing the ball, each other, and birds.

But there’s a problem with an unlocked school. Continue reading A Night Schooling #(228)

Problem Pet Owners (#213)

Some people shouldn’t have pets. Take my family. I had anywhere from 3-7 siblings when I was growing up. There’s no way a parent will notice a listless cat needs a vet visit when they don’t even know that child #2 has a chipped ankle because they’re busy bandaging the road rash of child #4, dragged an entire block by the dog they never had the time to train. Eventually, the ill-trained dog will be sent to the local doggie death center. The children will cry. The dog will be replaced by a bunny. Raccoons will eat the rabbit because it was left outside.

Welcome to the circle of life, suburban edition. Continue reading Problem Pet Owners (#213)

Football vs. Furry Friend (#211)

I grew up in Washington, D.C., on football, in a football town. The Vice-Principal of my Junior High was a Dallas Cowboys fan. Every time Dallas played D.C., he’d get on the PA system before the game and taunt the student body, telling us how Dallas would win the next game. We’d respond by singing (yelling), “Fight on, fight on, till you have won/ Sons of Washington” at him in the hallways. Continue reading Football vs. Furry Friend (#211)

Baby Battle (#205)

My parents procreated like rabbits. Then they got divorced and procreated some more. Given that having children is pretty much the worst thing a regular person – not an Exxon Executive or a Donald Trump – can do to the environment, I figured someone in my family owed it to Mother Earth to NOT have children.

There was just one problem. My husband wanted a kid. Continue reading Baby Battle (#205)