Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Baby Story Part 8

We have now arrived in that reproductive purgatory known as month nine. Feet are swelling, moods are swinging, and our child has launched an all-out assault on my wife’s internal organs. Nesting has also reached a crescendo as I found my wife in the garage re-arranging my shop vac and crescent wrenches. Apparently our infant son will be spending large amounts of time there.

It appears that this nesting come bundled with extreme attention deficit disorder. This means that my wife is only interested in completing irrelevant tasks with unnecessary urgency. She will begin the task of laundry only to find herself with a label maker in one hand and a stack of alphabetized cookbooks in the other. On the plus side, if this trend continues all of our board games will be stacked in ascending order by original copyright date.

One of the biggest issues is getting my wife comfortable for bed. At the time of this writing, the accessories required for this task include: six regular pillows, two brands of lip balm, a Seinfeld DVD, a cup of ice water, a heating pad, an iPod touch, a white noise machine, and a body pillow the size of a miniature pony all placed in a very specific configuration depending on which side she wishes to face. Even this amount of pageantry offers only a brief respite until her tiny bladder necessitates that she extricates herself and begin the entire process from scratch.

These restless evenings are punctuated by weekly checkups whereby the doctor inspects for cervix dilation. For those that don’t know, this is a rather unpleasant process whereby a physician is in very real danger of losing their wristwatch. At some point during the visit a nurse will utter the phrase, “your urine looks good today” and you will be issued a baby formula swag bag.

Perhaps the most devastating aspect from a husband’s standpoint is the hormone-induced insecurities. These tend to escalate until you find yourself reassuring your mate that despite how they feel no one has mistaken them for a penguin shoplifting a country-ham. Such conversations become tricky because an ill-prepared spouse can quickly find themselves staring down the statement from which there is no return: “You are just saying that.”

Responding to such a declaration must be avoided at all costs because each and every logical response has an equally illogical retort that only moves you closer to pleading with her through a recently- slammed bathroom door. Let me lay out some common responses and how they are typically received by a pregnant woman’s ears:

What You Say (Option 1): “No I’m not just saying that! I really mean it!”
What She Thinks: “That Is exactly what someone who is lying would say!”

What You Say (Option 2): “I am not sure what you want me to say here. It seems as though nothing I can say would convince you of my sincerity.”
What She Thinks: “I cannot believe he is too slow-witted to lie without buying himself some time.”

What You Say (Option 3): “Honey, look in my eyes and know that you are the most beautiful woman in the world to me and pregnancy has bestowed a breathtaking ethereal glow upon you that leaves me cherishing the very day God brought you into my life.”
What She Thinks: “That is the most touching lie I have ever heard!”

My wife is gorgeous and pregnancy has done nothing to diminish that, but in order to avoid the aforementioned conversational mine-field, I have chosen to simply state my case here:

Honey, you are beautiful inside and out, and I am forever grateful that you allowed me to impregnate you despite your familiarity with my shortcomings. I cannot wait to begin the journey of raising our inevitably near-sighted offspring together in our moderately-sized home. You will be an amazing mother and I consider it a privilege to spend the better part of an hour tucking you into bed every night.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Scouting For Sponsors

Recently the Boy Scouts of America made headlines by indicating their willingness to drop a restriction against openly gay scout leaders and members. The move comes amid the recent withdrawal of financial support from UPS, Intel, and Merck after the three corporations cut all ties with the organization over the issue. Hundreds of Eagle Scouts have returned their badges over the B.S.A’s 2011 decision to reaffirm the ban on homosexual membership. Although local chapters would still be able to determine their own requirements, the decision has highlighted strong opinions on both sides.

The Southern Baptist Convention has stated that allowing openly gay membership in the organization would be a “catastrophe” since the Scouts define moral character as “sexually pure and being a heterosexual.” They concede that although being gay doesn’t make one a pedophile, it does mean they are attracted to the gender they would be in authority over and parallels this with putting heterosexual men in charge of Girl Scouts. Pat Robertson took it a step farther and prophesied that lifting the ban would result in “predators as Boy Scouts” and “pedophiles as Scoutmasters.”    

Despite the backlash, both state and federal courts have upheld the group’s selective membership requirements (most recently in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale) and legally the group is under no obligation to amend its policy. Even today, those who claim to be atheist or agnostic are prevented from obtaining membership under the “Duty to God” clause which is also protected under the same statute.

As a highly decorated Cub Scout (I left shortly after earning my Arrow of Light) I am truly outraged at this turn of events. You mean to tell me that all those Saturdays I spent trying to sell overpriced Trail’s End popcorn to complete strangers; the Scouting brass was getting checks from Merck? Here I felt like the financial solvency of the entire operation resting on my tiny little shoulders and the entire time we have profit sharing rights on Fosamax. At least the Girl Scouts had a proprietary product that couldn’t be purchased cheaper inside the very store that they were soliciting in front of. You need a dealer to get a box of Samoas or Thin Mints, but is there anything more ubiquitous than microwave popcorn? I am having difficulty thinking of a retailer that doesn’t carry it.

I suppose the SBC has a point about having male Girl Scout leaders, but the Cub Scouts do allow females to have authority over boys in the form of Den Mothers. Sadly, in today’s society it is probably dangerous to leave your child alone with any adult other than yourself. As far as Pat Robertson’s claim goes, there doesn’t appear to be any reliable evidence to suggest that men who identify themselves as homosexual are statistically more likely to molest children that men who identify themselves as heterosexual. After all, how many Catholic priests convicted of molestation would have checked the “gay” box on their application form? Simply put, sexual attraction to children is mutually exclusive from a person’s orientation.

How do they screen for dangerous applicants currently? If some smarmy guy with a dirty stache and no kids shows up at the BSA office and says, “I would really like to find myself in a tent with prepubescent boys.” - is there a protocol for that? Personally, whether or not he claims to find women attractive would make little difference to me as a parent. I still wouldn’t want him pinning merit badges on my kid.

Essentially, the Boy Scouts of America has been operating under a “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy for a long time and they have the right to continue to do so with legal impunity. However, business sponsors also have the right to withdraw their support from a private organization that they no longer feel aligns with their corporate ethos. The fact is that membership in the Scouts has fallen 22% since 1999 and some of the most vocal supporters of the ban on gay membership are the least supportive of the group financially or logistically (for instance, Baptists have less BSA charters than Mormons, Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, or Lutherans). It appears they will either need to locate new sponsors who share their views or reverse their stance in order to keep the ones they have.  

Personally, I enjoyed my tenure in the Scouts and appreciate all those who volunteered their time to make my experience beneficial and worthwhile. The sad reality is that parents should be wary of anyone they entrust with their child, regardless of what gender they are attracted to. Perhaps one day my son will want to stand in front of a Kroger and convince total strangers that it is reasonable to pay $15 for a bag of microwavable popcorn, but at the rate the BSA is alienating benefactors his uniform may sport corporate logos instead of merit badges.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Baby Story Part 7

My wife and I recently continued our pre-natal education by attending an infant care class. Unlike the childbirth classes, I was pleased to find that this course featured videos and material produced after O.J. was acquitted. We covered several subjects but one of the most fascinating was colic. Before taking the course, I had only a rudimentary understanding of its cause and diagnosis. I now realize medical school would not have changed that.

It turns out that colic is the diagnosis given to a child that cries a lot. The medical definition could be “a term used to describe the absence of a discernible cause for incessant crying in a newborn” which is medical parlance for “we have no idea why your child won’t shut up.” The medical establishment has amassed an impressive amount of research on what doesn’t cause it (premature birth, parental anxiety, risky investment strategies) but at best they are simply placating the parents until the symptoms disappear on their own.

The video covered some breast-feeding techniques and impressed upon us that the birth of the child was “a good time to give up smoking and alcohol.” We were then instructed not to violently shake our newborn as this could be detrimental to the child’s development and may lead to the other great medical ambiguity of infant care: SIDS.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is as tragic (and unexplained) as the nomenclature suggests. As with colic, we do not really know what causes it and can only speculate as to which preventative measures are effective. I looked at SIDS monitors on Amazon and was shocked to find that they all had great reviews. I could not fathom how it is possible for all the customers to be happy with almost all of the models. Then, I realized how brilliant the SIDS monitor market is.

Ultimately, there are only two outcomes to the product’s use: either your child does or doesn’t live past infancy. If your child does not become a SIDS victim (and statistically-speaking most won’t) it would be disingenuous of you to go online and claim that it did not function as promised. After all, it is a SIDS monitor and since your child didn’t experience SIDS it had nothing to monitor thus rendering the device nothing more than an effective way to burn through batteries. If tragedy were to strike, how many consumers would have the presence of mind to complete a review that made a convincing case for manufacturer culpability? I doubt that a grieving parent’s first course of action would be to shake their fist at the heavens and shout, “As God as my witness, I will not stop until the SIDS 4000 is saddled with a 3-star average!”

Perhaps I will manufacture a monitor that will detect excessive infant crying and alert the parents that their child may have colic. I also have an idea for a Bluetooth diaper that will alert the parent(s) via text message once it detects a foreign substance. I am still playing with the message formatting but I am leaning toward something like this:

From: Infant’s Digestive System
Just dropped a deuce. Please render immediate assistance. #FecalArmageddon          

We also learned the fine art of swaddling. Each couple was given a unisex doll with a blanket and shown how to create a “baby burrito” by folding it into a triangular shape and tightly layering it around the infant. Raising my hand, I asked if it wouldn’t be easier to simply purchase a large ACE bandage to wrap the child with. This was met with a look of horror from the instructor and an eye-roll from my wife. Later, when she was advising us on which blankets to purchase, we were told to acquire “thin, stretchy material that will adhere to itself.” I could not help but point out that sounded exactly like an ACE bandage. I was immediately instructed by my wife to stop talking.

Fortunately, the class was winding down about the time I had pulled the doll’s beanie over his eyes, hung his pacifier from his neck, and begun giving pound-love to nearby participants. I have a feeling that I was one chest-bump away from having my doll confiscated by the instructor.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Savages of the Seas

My wife and I have been on several cruises together and have always enjoyed the experience, so you can imagine the ridicule I subjected a friend to after he vowed never to take one. His reasoning? He believes them to be floating vessels of anarchy exempt from the societal laws and norms that govern acceptable human behavior. “There’s no law!” he would insist, attributing the inevitable chaos to the legal ambiguity concerning international waters. Well David, I sincerely apologize as your fears were anything but baseless.

Apparently, the ironically christened Carnival Triumph was about 150 miles from the Yucatan Peninsula when a fire broke out in the engine room leaving the 102-ton vessel and its 3,143 passengers dead in the water. Without power and running water, those aboard were reportedly forced to sleep in tents on the open deck and relieve themselves in bags and buckets. Family members claim to have received texts from loved ones on-board detailing fights over food and water. Eyewitness accounts describe the passengers as “savages” scrounging for basic necessities. One man has been removed for dialysis and all this was just within the first 24 hours.

The ship’s crew has been distributing bottled water and cold food in the immediate aftermath and reports late Monday indicated that the shipboard engineers were able to restore some hot food service and running water. The ship is expected to port in Mexico today where the passengers can be flown home. Carnival has announced that it will issue a full refund (minus casino and gift shop expenditures) to those affected. They will also issue a voucher for a complimentary Carnival cruise at some point in the future. This is the second time a Carnival boat has become disabled due to an onboard fire while in the Gulf of Mexico.

Literally one day without power and it sounds like Lord of the Flies out there. One minute you are feasting on escargot and sipping champagne, the next thing you know someone is handing you a warm bologna sandwich while the guy next to you pinches one off in an ice bucket. I shudder to think what would have happened if they had not been able to partially restore a buffet and sewage system. The situation was deteriorating so rapidly it sounds as if passengers were a sunset away from cannibalism.

By the time she hits port, the boat will be full of haggard barbarians whose necklaces will be adorned by the sun-bleached bones of the innocent. The captain has probably re-purposed the shuffleboard court for hourly human sacrifices to the dark master. Passengers will really know to panic when it is announced that all sodas are “complimentary.”     

Having eaten several meals aboard a similar vessel, I can tell you that the only thing more dangerous than being adrift at sea is being anywhere near the Lido deck when the captain announces that the buffet has been temporarily reopened. I can assure you that the “women and children first” mandate is nothing more than a heartwarming idea. Bob and Becky from Denver may have seemed polite at the formal dinner but I guarantee you that once the chips are down they will not hesitate to take out grandma’s bad hip if it gets them closer to the pesto sauce.

I did appreciate how Carnival specified that their full refund did not cover gambling losses or duty-free souvenirs. I’ll bet that shipboard photographer isn’t so eager to document your memories now. I can just see some poor guy trying to coax a displaced family together for a portrait:

Ma’am, if you and your husband would step over to the right of your bedroll I will try and crop out the urine bags and fecal graffiti. That’s it. Say, “maritime pandemonium!”

Sadly, their first priority was probably to restore power to the casino since they are still in international waters. Although at this point the craps table is probably surrounded by crew members playing Russian roulette a la The Deer Hunter.

Carnival also said they will issue passes for a “free cruise” along with the refund. I don’t know about you, but after spending four days adrift in the gulf while my former table mates fashion shivs from their Sign & Sail pass I am not sure how eager I will be to hop aboard the Carnival Doldrums in the future. Perhaps Carnival should name their ships something less grandiose and more indicative of their offerings like the Carnival Adequate or the Carnival Sufficiently Buoyant.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Random Thoughts Part 4

  • Why is it that every time I am filling out an online form that requests my date of birth, it defaults to today’s date? How many newborns are completing online paperwork? Can’t they just split the difference and default to 1972 so I can stop scrolling backwards from 2013?

  • Movie Idea: Charlene is a competitive body-hair stylist framed for the murder of Peruvian diplomat and the only way to prove her innocence is by going deep undercover in the shadowy world of dairy smuggling.

  • When I have been on hold for an extended period of time, nothing erodes at my patience more effectively than having a recording repeatedly inform me that it “appreciates my patience.”

  • I don’t think it is a coincidence that the local movie theater with the most uncomfortable seats features the largest number of chiropractic advertisements.

  • I am convinced that Nestle is one of the most brilliant corporations on the planet. How else can you describe a company that makes over 20 billion dollars a year selling candy bars and ice cream but still has the audacity to own Lean Cuisine and Jenny Craig?

  • I dislike when the self-checkout kiosk asks me if “Is the Amount OK?” as if it needed my opinion on the store’s valuation of its own inventory. Does it want my opinion? Am I allowed to haggle? If I select “No” will I be presented with the opportunity to suggest a more reasonable grand total? The correct terminology would be “Is Displayed Total Correct?”

  • Just once, I would like to see a women’s magazine that advertised “12 Easy Ways to Maintain Your Current Weight and Proportions.”

  • I am relieved that having an imaginary girlfriend has become fashionable again. I had one in middle school named Jill Masterson (a name I must have subconsciously absorbed from repeated viewings of Goldfinger) and she was unable to make an appearance to my classmates due to a debilitating sunlight allergy. I do hope she is feeling better.

  • At what point did Charmin decide that the best way to market its product was to associate it with animated bears?

  • I wish I could land a job creating coupons for fast food chains since their goals seems to make them instantly appealing but impossible to redeem:

1.       Buy 4 large cream sodas and receive 20% off the discontinued menu item of your choice.
2.       Free Adult EntrĂ©e! (When you purchase a dozen Spinach Cheesecakes Bites and pay in exact change using only quarters.)
3.        Free Large Meat Lover’s Pizza with a current American Vegetarian Association membership.
4.       Buy one menu item at regular price and receive one regularly-priced menu item.