Put Me In Coach....I'm Ready to Push

Saturday, May 31, 2008

"Boys, we're gonna run the picket fence at 'em...Now don't get caught watchin' the paint dry!"

If you have ever seen the movie Hoosiers, you undoubtedly remember that classic line. It was uttered by assistant coach Wilbur "Shooter" Flatch, the recovering alcoholic recluse, during a timeout as he diagrammed the game-winning final play. Norman Dale, the head coach, had purposefully been thrown out of the game to force Shooter to take the coaching reigns in his absence. When Coach Dale gets tossed, Shooter realizes he is going to have to coach the team on his own and gets a terrified look on his face. His expression looks eerily similar to Kevin Garnett's when he gets the ball with less than three minutes to play in a close playoff game. Shooter ultimately gains his confidence, draws up the Picket Fence, and leads Hickory to victory.

Most Normal Mormon Husbands have been forced to be terrified coaches just like Shooter, except we tend to be under the legal limit. A few times during our lives we get thrust into a do-or-die situation for which we feel completely inadequate and unprepared. I'm not talking about being called to coach the Deacons team to the Stake championship. Oh no, I am referring to a much more difficult coaching assignment.

I'm talking about being a "labor coach".

I was a labor coach for the third time last week when our daughter was born. After the birth I had a phone conversation with my brother who was just made a father for the fifth time. We chuckled about the awkward "coaching" moments, fear of messing up, and different tactics we employ as we assist our wives through the labor process. My brother and I are separated by only 14 months and we are pretty similar people, all things considered. Despite our personal similarities, our labor coaching styles differed enough that I thought it would be interesting to get your perspective on this awkward role played by husbands throughout the world.

Before getting your input, I just wanted to say how silly I think it is that we are called "coaches". In my mind, the coach is the undisputed leader and has total control over the situation. He sets the strategies and people are accountable to him for precisely executing on his game plan. If the coach is unhappy with your performance, he can pull you out of the game and replace you with somebody else. This would not fly during birth. A husband could not say, "Honey, we practiced using the 'cleansing breath' until you were a seven and then we would transition to 'hee-hee' breathing. You were slipping into the hee-hee's while you were still a four. Go ahead and take three laps before hitting the showers. I'm replacing you with the woman down the hall. Her breathing has been on fire tonight." Calling the husband a "coach" is like calling a truck driver an "Inventory Relocation Engineer". Call us what we really are: Goose from Top Gun. The woman is the pilot of the fighter jet (Maverick, in this example) and will take the plane where she wants to take it. She is the hotshot at the center of the attention, and rightfully so. The husband is along for the ride in the back seat (like Goose) occasionally saying something interesting like, "Mav, don't you dare buzz the flight deck again!", or, "Yee-haw, Jester's dead!", but a trained monkey could be just as helpful at times. If we ever have baby number four, I am going to officially request that the hospital staff refer to me as "Goose".

So here are this week's discussion topics and poll questions. Please follow-up with some additional detail in your comments:

-Guys: What type of labor coach are you?
-Ladies: What type of labor coach do you wish your husband would be?

After giving this topic a considerable amount of thought, I have narrowed the three main labor coaching styles into sports-related headings - NFL head coach, NBA head coach and MLB manager. There are also five scenarios that labor coaches commonly encounter and your response to these scenarios will help you determine your style. The common scenarios are pre-birth preparation, the hospital bag, being a "fetcher" (in the literal "I need to get my wife something" sense, not the 1990's fake Mormon swear word), contractions, and the umbilical cord.

1. The NFL Head Coach - These husbands are meticulous planners and are exceptionally prepared for the birth, but are hands-off enough to let the doctors and nurses do their jobs. NFL head coaches are notorious for preparing for their upcoming games by watching game film until 3:00 a.m., sleeping in their offices, and then waking at 6:00 a.m. to watch more film. They know how to get ready for every game. However, NFL coaches generally allow their offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinators to call most of the plays and handle the substitutions. In short, NFL coaches are prepared for the action but trust their staff enough to execute on the details. These are the husbands who know exactly what to expect in the hospital and then get out of the way while the doctors and nurses go to work. Here is how the NFL head coach husbands handle the common scenarios:

-Pre-birth Preparation:
Reads the entire book of "What to Expect When You're Expecting", Tivo's "A Baby Story", attends every birthing class, and subscribes to babycenter.com updates.
-The Hospital Bag: Has all of his clothes meticulously folded into his bag several weeks before the due date. Does not forget any toiletries. Even remembers to secretly pack light snacks and reading material for his wife.
-"Fetcher": He sees his wife's needs before she expresses them (she is low on ice chips, needs an extra blanket, wants the TV turned down, etc.) and proactively takes care of her needs.
-Contractions: Times the length and intervals of the contractions and knows when the doctor needs to be notified. Only reminds his wife to breathe or push when absolutely necessary and only says, "You're doing great!" toward the end of labor.
-Umbilical Cord: Understands why the umbilical cord needs to be cut and how to do it, but he prefers to have an expert, like a doctor or nurse, make the cut.

2. The NBA Head Coach - Unlike the NFL coaches, NBA head coaches do not spend a significant amount of time preparing for games. Instead, they are extremely involved in the action itself. NBA coaches are constantly barking instructions to their team from the sideline, calling offensive and defensive sets, diagramming plays during timeouts and harping at the officials. Husbands who follow this pattern are the ones who communicate almost constantly with their wives from the moment they arrive at the hospital until he is repulsed by the sight of the afterbirth. These are the guys who constantly chat with the hospital staff about what is going on and what the next steps will be. He routinely tells his wife what to do, when to do it, and then tells her how she can do it better next time. NBA head coaches handle the common scenarios like this:

-Pre-birth Preparation:
Skims "What to Expect When You're Expecting", has watched a few minutes of "A Baby Story", attends some birthing classes, and spends more time on espn.com than babycenter.com.
-The Hospital Bag: Throws most of what he needs into his hospital bag the day his wife goes into labor. After getting to the hospital he realizes he forgot his deodorant.
-"Fetcher": Repeatedly asks his wife questions like, "Do you need more ice chips?", "Can I get you a Ginger Ale?", "Do you want to watch Myth Busters or Sports Center?", and "Should I get the anesthesiologist?"
-Contractions: Times the length and intervals of the contractions from the time they begin until the time they end. Constantly relays the information from the monitors to his wife (e.g. "That contraction reached a 68 and the baby's heart rate dropped to 136 from 142."). Tells her to follow his breathing pattern and repeats the word "breathe" twelve times through every contraction.
-Umbilical Cord: Grabs the scissors and starts cutting before the doctor is finished explaining where to cut.

3. The Major League Baseball Manager - Let's face it. There is no other coaching position in professional sports that is as unnecessary as the MLB manager. There are some games amidst the 162-game schedule where the manager sets his starting lineup, watches his pitcher throw a complete game, and makes no substitutions. Other than perhaps talking to the pitcher once or twice during the game or seeing how much tobacco he can stuff into his bottom lip, the MLB manager can get by without doing much of anything some days. His base coaches tell the runners when to run. The Catcher calls the pitches. The players just play. Easy as pie. For example, on April 27th the Rays beat the Red Sox 3-0 and neither coach made a single substitution the entire game. (Man, why didn't I become an MLB manager? It's a sweet gig when you think about it. Except for the tobacco part, of course.) The MLB manager husbands are the guys who are unprepared for the birth and cannot offer much help to their wives throughout the process. Some of them secretly wish we still lived in the 1950's when nervous dads would smoke cigars in the waiting room until the baby was born and did not have to interact with the child until he was nine years old. Here is how they tend to stumble through the labor and delivery:

-Pre-birth Preparation:
Plays in his county rec softball league while his wife goes to birthing classes.
-The Hospital Bag: Has no idea that he was supposed to pack a bag because he did not realize that it may be 48 hours before he leaves the hospital. Ends up sleeping in his Levis and brushing his teeth with a peppermint Life Saver.
-"Fetcher": Repeatedly asks his wife questions like, "Do you mind if I get myself another Ginger Ale?", "Can I watch Sports Center?", and "Do you want a burger from the cafeteria?" (He is then horrified to learn why it is not recommended that women eat solid food immediately before or during the labor process.)
-Contractions: Feels like he should be able to play his PSP until his wife dilates to a six because, "five sounds like a pretty low number."
-Umbilical Cord: He is so freaked out by the delivery that he cannot produce a coherent response when asked if he wants to cut the cord.

As for me, I was more of an NBA coach with our first child but have gradually morphed into an NFL head coach. The NMW gave me some positive feedback after our daughter was born last week and thanked me for only reminding her to breathe when she was needing to be reminded. However, I did ask her if she minded if I watched Sports Center while she was in the early stages of labor and I did tell her what the monitors were reading after hard contractions. Hopefully this is what my wife needed. Some wives may need a more hands-on approach and want an NBA coach in the room with them. Others may be relegated to realizing that no matter what they do or say, their husband will be the MLB manager and she will just have to make do with what she has.

But hey, if a drunk hermit can coach Hickory High to a big win, maybe we can help our wives pull through in the clutch every once in a while as well.

The Blessed Day is Here

Thursday, May 29, 2008

How better to share in the joy of the birth of our third child than with a running diary:

7:30 p.m.- While in the middle of eating dinner at Panera Bread my wife tells me that she is having contractions. Real contractions. I'm-having-a-baby-tonight contractions. I am thrilled by the news, but also saddened that we will not be eating out as much. You see, we have been regularly using the "Let's go out for dinner tonight since it might be our last chance to go out before the baby comes" excuse for the past two weeks. Good bye reasonably-priced sit-down restaurants. I savor every remaining bite of my roast beef sandwich and cheddar broccoli soup.

9:02 p.m- While putting the final items into my hospital bag I insert the large bag of Peanut M&M's. Peanut M&M's have become my official celebratory candy. It all started back on our honeymoon. For some odd reason we were addicted to the little goodies during our honeymoon in San Diego ten years ago. Ever since then I have always associated Peanut M&M's with special occasions, so I'll bring them along tonight. Man am I glad that we didn't eat Idaho Spuds on our honeymoon.

9:12 p.m.- As the NMW and I open the garage door to leave for the hospital she turns to me and says, "Oh, man! The library books are due tomorrow. I had better renew them online right now so we don't get a fine." Instead of leaving to give birth, the always-responsible NMW logs on to the library's website and renews our library books. I feel like asking her if there is anything else she would like to do between contractions. You know, like balance the checkbook or dry pack some apricots.

9:15 p.m.- As we back out of the driveway my wife sees that all of the neighbors have their trashcans and recycling at the curb. "Oh man!," she says, "Tonight is trash night!" See my 9:12 comments about checkbooks and apricots.

9:20 p.m.- I have been a distracted driver before, but this is ridiculous. While driving on a dark night in the rain I am not only avoiding oncoming traffic, but also counting out loud how long each contraction is lasting. The audio transcript sounds a little like this, "One...two...three..four...Thanks for the turn signal, buddy!...six...seven...eight...nine...Hurry up grandpa, I've got a woman in labor over here!...Uhhhh, thirty one?...twenty four?...Was that our exit?..Nine...twelve...beta...googooplex..." Probably not a whole lot of useful data for the doctors coming from this.

9:35 p.m.- We arrive at the hospital and take our seats in the lobby. There are about six other pregnant women with their assortments of husbands, boyfriends, baby-daddies, and/or frazzled mothers with the, "I ain't raising this baby for you" looks on their faces accompanying them. The television in the corner is showing Fox's reality cooking show called "Hell's Kitchen" and the volume is up pretty loud. If you have never seen the show before, it basically consists of the head chef swearing at a bunch of terrified cooks who are trying to win his approval. As if these poor pregnant womens' nerves are not frayed enough at this point, they are now being forced to sit in a cramped room with sentences like this booming from Gordon Ramsey on TV, "You call this (beeeep)-ing (beeeeep) an appetizer? It (beeeep)-ing couldn't (beeeeep) a dog's (beeeeep) in the (beeeep) (beeeep) (beeeeep)-er." I feel like yelling, "Serenity Now!" a la Frank Constanza and change the channel to ESPN. The Lakers are playing the Spurs in a critical Game 4 in San Antonio right now and I would prefer to just sneak peeks at the t.v. instead of refreshing my Black Berry. Lakers are up a few points right now. Sweet!

9:36 p.m.- Instead of sitting down and listening to Gordon Ramsey's profane tirades, the NMW wants to walk up and down the hall until we get a room. I ask her if this is supposed to help with the contractions. She says, "No. You just look like you need the exercise." Just kidding, she didn't say that.

9:42 p.m.- When a contraction hits, my wife stops us in the hall, puts her arms around my neck, and leans against me until the contractions ends. I now know what it must feel like to be a cat's scratching pole.

9:46 p.m.- There are some random photos hanging on the walls of the hallway that we are walking through. The pictures are of actual Women's Hospital employees happily going along with their daily work. We make up captions for them as we go and get a few laughs out of them, including:

9:56 p.m.- I do not have a watch so I am using the NMW's girly-looking silver watch to time her contractions. I am also carrying her purse up and down the hall for her. Right now I am praying that we get a room before I end up wearing her earrings and applying lip liner as we walk the hospital halls. Although I feel like I should turn in my Man Card for my feminine accessories, all of the other soon-to-be dads are giving me sympathetic looks. I think all men should be given t-shirts that say, "Dude's got to do what a dude's got to do." the night their wives go in to labor.

10:55 p.m.- We finally get our own room, but it is pretty cramped. I tell the NMW that the only place that I can sit is smashed into the corner. She looks at me with a hint of drama on her face and says, "Nobody puts Andrew in a corner!" Neither of us are Dirty Dancing fans, but spoofing the "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" is one of our fun little inside jokes.

11:17 p.m.- The faces on the "Levels of Pain" poster on the wall are hilarious. My wife makes the Level 3 face and I burst into laughter.

11:56 p.m.- THE BLESSED MOMENT IS HERE! THE NMW AND I HAVE BEEN WAITING SO LONG FOR THIS WONDERFUL EVENT! IT HAPPENED SO FAST! THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST INCREDIBLE MOMENTS OF MY LIFE! I DON'T THINK I HAVE EVER BEEN PROUDER. THAT'S RIGHT! THE LAKERS JUST BEAT THE SPURS IN SAN ANTONIO TO GO UP 3-1!!!!! (FYI - I had the NMW's permission to check the Black Berry to see how the game ended. I would never be insensitive enough to say, "You get through the next contraction on your own while I look at the Lakers box score, okay?")

12:38 a.m.- We have been moved into our delivery room and the contractions are coming hard and fast. In between contractions the NMW points to a mirror on a stand in the corner and says, "I want to watch the baby come out, so get the mirror in place when the doctor comes." This is the same woman who only had local anesthetic when she had her wisdom teeth pulled because she wanted to see the dentist at work. I am not surprised at all by the request to set up the mirror.

1:00 a.m.- The nurse checks the NMW's progress and she has dilated to an 8. The baby could be coming any minute. Things are progressing too quickly for an epidural, so my wife is just going to have to bear down and tough it out. The exact same thing happened with our second child and the epidural did not work with our first baby. In short, this will be her third straight delivery without the assistance of any pain killers. I am pretty sure that the NMW is tough enough to take down Kimbo Slice if she needed to, but I can tell she is in almost unbearable pain right now. This is one of the most helpless feelings in the world for a husband. I wish I could just go through this for her. It kills me to see her hurt like this.

1:13 a.m.- The doctor is here and my wife could deliver any moment now. During an incredibly painful contraction I remember the request the NMW made about the mirror. I wonder if I should even bring it up? After carefully weighing my options, I conclude that it would be best to ask her and give her the chance to change her mind if she is in too much pain. In the exact moment that she is dilating from a 9 to a 10 I ask, "So do you still want to watch through the mirror?" For a split second, time stands still. The doctors and nurses stop cold in their tracks. Sound ceases to exist. The whole time-space continuum nearly unravels. The NMW looks at me and bellows, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Her voice is deep and gruffy, like Claw from the cartoon-version of Inspector Gadget. On second thought, maybe I should not have asked the question. (24 hours after the delivery the NMW was chuckling about how she reacted to the question. I assured her that anything she says while a baby is crowning receives absolute immunity.)

1:15 a.m.- We welcome our beautiful, healthy daughter into the world. She weighs 7 lbs. 2 oz. and measures 21 inches. The whole experience is overwhelming. Between my heart breaking for my wife's pain and my heart swelling with love for this new little life at the same time, I am overcome with emotion.

2:06 a.m.- The NMW is recovering beautifully and our all signs are positive with our daughter. I go to the Nursery with her and am greeted by a member of our ward who is a nurse in labor and delivery. I did not know she was working tonight. She comes over, gives me a hug, and I proudly show her the new addition to my family. My ward member tells me that she reserved the best recovery room for our stay in the hospital. How grateful I am for a loving ward family.

I guess that is the best way to end this post - with a thought about all of the different connotations of the word "family".

Our ward family here in North Carolina is so very important to us. While we live on the opposite side of the country from our parents and siblings, we have this wonderful group of friends (okay, brothers and sisters) who have already stuffed our freezer full of pre-made dinners. There are people in our ward who were willing to watch our two older children when the NMW went into labor, no matter what time of day or night it may happen. I am grateful for a ward family that provides us with a home away from home.

Our family also consists of wonderful parents on both sides and a number of loving siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews. We were fortunate to have the NMW's mom and dad arrive the day she went into labor. My mom and dad are just a phone call away in Utah, and I could sense their excitement and yearning to be there with us when I gave them the good news. Both my wife and I have been blessed with parents and siblings who have blessed our lives. So much of what we become as adults - whether for the good or for the bad - has to do with our families. How blessed we are to have two dads and two moms and a host of loving, caring siblings to share in our joy.

Our immediate family now consists of a rambunctious six-year-old boy, a princess of a four-year-old daughter, and another little one whose age can be measured in hours. The day after our daughter was born I was able to watch my older daughter dance in her first pre-ballet recital followed immediately by my sons baseball game where we hit a nice single to left field. Parenting is not always easy, but the joy I get out of seeing my kids grow, learn, and develop enriches my life more than I can explain. Experiencing these wonderful moments with an awesome wife makes it even that much more fulfilling.

Lastly, the family that I am a part of but fail to remember often enough is that of my Heavenly Father. The moment my daughter was born I was so clearly reminded of how big, how special, this life is. The veil between heaven and earth is thin when Heavenly Father welcomes a fresh, new, pure spirit into this world, this life, that he has given to us. I know God lives. He is my Father. I love Him and have felt His love for me. How awed I am that He has given me this opportunity to raise another one of His choice children. I just hope I can give her everything she needs to succeed, spiritually and otherwise, in this world.

Thank you for sharing in our joy.

Ummm....Did We Go To High School Together?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Over the past several weeks there have been a few readers who have wanted to email me to ask questions that they did not necessarily want posted in the comments. Due to overwhelming public demand (read: three requests) to contact me, I have set up a generic email for the site. It is:


If you think we may have gone to high school together, played basketball against each other, served in the same mission, etc., please feel free to send an email. You can also email me about banner exchanges and advertising on the site at very affordable rates.

If you think I might the guy who owes you $25 from when we were at Ricks College in 1995, you can email me at fake@fake.com.


If It Smells Like a False Alarm, It's Probably a False Alarm

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Normal Mormon Wife is due on May 27th to have our third child. Everything has been pretty smooth with this pregnancy, even picking out the baby's name. (Unless, of course, I have a Zacharias-like moment during the blessing and say, "Her name is....LaFawnduh! And they marvelled all.") On Friday, May 16th, we had an official false labor alarm, but the trip to the midwife was enjoyable enough to warrant a running diary.

(For those who are wondering, the Normal Mormon Wife had complete editing control over this post since some of it refers to her bodily fluids.)

12:46 a.m. - The NMW informs me that our bedsheets are suddenly, inexplicably wet. I don't think that I left an Otter Pop that could have melted between the sheets, so it did not come from me. It is a fairly decently sized puddle, so we dial the midwife on call. She says that there may be a tear in the amniotic sac and that my wife's water may have broken. The midwife says that we can come in first thing in the morning and they will check her out. Wow. We might have a baby tomorrow!

8:46 a.m. - The NMW tells me that she could not sleep last night so she did some research online about what may have exited her body. One of the websites said, "Smell the discharge. If it smells like ammonia, it is urine, not amniotic fluid." Hold on. If it smells like ammonia, it is probably urine? Why not just get right to the point and say, "If it smells like urine, it is probably urine?" Our daughter who just turned four is still learning to sleep through the night without Pull-Ups and we have had to change her sheets about three times a week for the past month. If anybody knows the smell of urine in the bed, it's us. Armed with this knowledge, we are sure that the fluid that joined us in bed last night was definitely not urine.

9:28 a.m. - Arrive at the hospital, and it now hits me like a ton of bricks - OHMYGOSHWEAREHAVINGABABYTODAY! I smile.

9:31 a.m. - Sitting in the lobby with a slew of very, very pregnant women. The lobby television is tuned to ESPN and Sports Center is on right now. Every man in the waiting room has one eye on his wife and another eye on the NBA Playoffs highlights. Does the hospital have the station set on ESPN just to start fights between pregnant, emotional women and their husbands who just want to watch LeBron's highlight dunk from last night?

9:36 a.m. - A commercial for Game 6 of the Lakers-Jazz series just informed me that the game can be seen tonight at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN. Sweetheart - please, please go into labor tonight! It is the only way that we can watch our beloved Lakers eliminate the Jazz, in Utah no less! Why can we only watch the game at the hospital, you may ask? Well, we are one of the six remaining families in the United States that does not have cable television. We had it for the first four years of our marriage, but when I went to grad school we cut out every expense that we could. This included non-essentials like cable television, movie tickets, furniture and food. Even with bunny-ear reception we were able to get as much TV as we needed, so we never got cable again. This may have to change when every station has to broadcast in HD in 2009, but we are going to fight it to the bitter end. (Although, in all honesty, I cannot wait to get Discovery Channel, TLC, A&E, History Channel, etc. When I travel for work and the hotel has Discovery Channel, I end up watching "Deadliest Catch" until three in the morning.) I would give the NMW several shots of pitocin right now if I could, just so we could watch Kobe close the series out tonight in Salt Lake.

10:05 a.m. - We have been seated in our little room and are waiting for the midwife. There is a sign on the wall that says, "The Women's Hospital of Greensboro...is Listening!" Then in very small print the poster explains that you can take a customer satisfaction survey and have your voice heard about your experience. While the sign is supposed to reflect their focus on customer service, it actually gives me a little bit of the big-brother-is-watching creeps. The sign makes me feel like I'm in a police interrogation room with microphones and hidden cameras placed all around us.

10:10 a.m. - Still no midwife, so we invented a fun little game called, "Guess how much pain I am in." There is a poster on the wall with a 1-10 scale to help patients rate their pain for their doctors. It is translated into several languages, including one called "Paula Abdul-ish", which allows people to disregard all rules of the English language and just mesh random words together and still call it a sentence. For those who cannot read, there are pictures of faces beginning with a happy smiley face for a "1" and a picture of Jerry Sloan's face when he screams at Andre Kirilenko as a "10". Our game consists of one of us mimicking a face on the poster while the other person guesses the number that correlates with the pain. I laugh out loud when the NMW does the "10". I really hope I do not have a flashback to this moment when she is in labor with real pain that measures a "14" and I start laughing. This is so much more fun than being at work.

10:16 a.m. - I tell my wife about a show called "Mystery Diagnosis" that I watched on my video iPod on my last flight. One of the NMW's nicknames is "Science Girl", and I think she would like a show about medical mysteries that stymie doctors. She says it sounds interesting but that she had better not watch it in the hospital because it would make her paranoid. She says, "Yeah, if I watched it today I would probably make our doctor test for every little abnormality - like Farfegnugen Syndrome." I respond with, "Yes, doctor, our child appears to be German and it smells like he's running on diesel. Is that normal?" I am almost positive that my wife will be the first woman to ever laugh her way through contractions. Imagine how funny she is going to be when the drugs kick in. I'm brining the digital camcorder.

10:46 a.m. - The nurse has been in and out a few times and has the NMW dressed in a hospital gown. My gown-wearing wife tells us that she needs to use the restroom, which is across the hall. Our nurse looks at me and says, "Your job is to make sure that her buttocks is covered before she leaves the room." I can do that. This is the first job that I have ever had where the word "buttocks" appears in the description.

10:49 a.m. - Phew! It looks like I did my job just fine.

10:54 a.m. - The nurse asks the NMW a number of personal questions, including "Do you use any street drugs?" The Science Girl answers with a Bill Clinton-esque, "It depends upon what the definition of 'any' is." Just kidding. She's clean.

11:10 a.m. - I see a bruise on my wife's leg and say, "Great. Now the hospital staff is going to ask if you are in an abusive relationship." "Well," the NMW responds, "they already asked me if I was being abused when we first checked in." What? Why would they think my wife is being abused? Do I look mean? Violent? Like I'm related to Kimbo Slice? The more I think about it, the angrier I get. Now I'm fuming! Internally I feel like Bruce Banner morphing into Hulk. I stand up so that I can rip the TV monitor from the wall and fling it across the room, but then realize that this might not be the best course of action as I try to prove that I'm not a violent person. (On a side note: It is standard operating procedure for most hospitals to ask pregnant women if they are being abused, regardless of how clean-shaven and tattoo-less the husband is. There was nothing about me specifically that made the staff hit the panic button and ask the NMW those questions.)

11:14 - I chuckle as I realize that my sweet, wonderful, smart, active LDS wife is literally barefoot and pregnant while being asked if she is a crackhead or involved in a relationship that will end up on an episode of COPS. It's like I'm living in a Sundance Film Festival movie.

11:16 a.m. - The midwife comes in and does a pH swab test to see if the NMW's water has broken or not. We have a hot tub at home and the pH strip the midwife is using looks eerily similar to the one I use to check its pH, bromine, calcium, and alkalinity. I wonder if the midwife is using the same product that I use at home?

11:17 a.m. - The midwife tells us that, "Your pH level looks good," but then she slips up by saying, "but your bromine and alkaline levels are low." Busted! Fortunately for the NMW I have the chemicals that she needs in our garage.

11:20 a.m. - The midwife explains that, unfortunately, the NMW's water has not broken. No baby today. She tells us that we can go home but that she would not be surprised to see us back here within the next week. I ask my wife to try her best to time the real labor to happen on a night when the Lakers are playing on ESPN. Preferably in the Finals. Oh well. If our next trip to the hospital is as fun as today's was, we should be able to get along just fine. Game or no game.


Jami - You asked, "So...if it's not amnio or urine did they tell you what it was? I'll tell you if they didn't, but if they did I don't wanna gross anyone out unnecessarily." To answer your question - yes, they did tell us what it was. As I mentioned in the preface, the NMW had complete editorial control over this post. In the original draft the words "mucusy" and "discharge" appeared liberally. After the NMW review, I had to scale back some of the more grossy-gross details. Despite what the midwife said, I'm still convinced that the fluid in question was actually Aunt Jamima syrup. The NMW's story is going to appear in the July 15th, 2008 episode of "Mystery Diagnosis".

Linnae - Of course I remember both you and Sean! It's great to hear from you. Tell Sean "hello" from me. Even though I was a year younger than Sean (or "Noodle", as we called him back then), we had some good time together at Hunter with Brandon, Jared, Travis, Erik, Jed, etc. I look back on that 1992 high school basketball team and consider myself very, very fortunate to have been able to run around with such a good crowd.

-Melissa - I chuckled when you referred to Deadliest Catch as "the crab fishing show". That's like referring to American Idol as "that karaoke program on Fox". Between me, your husband, and Carrie it looks like the crab fishing show has quite a few fans. I think a lot of men like the Deadliest Catch because it helps us realize that our jobs really aren't that bad, all things considered. It does for perception of our jobs what Super Nanny does for parenting. Every time I feel like I'm a failure as a parent I just watch twenty minutes of Super Nanny and leave feeling like I should win Father of the Year.

Linnae - You asked if you know me or if your husband might know me through basketball. That is a hard question to answer since I don't know your last name or anything about you except that your screen name is "Linnae" and you have your blogger profile blocked. Tell me if this sounds familiar - My name is Andrew and I went to Hunter High School in WVC, UT where I played varsity basketball all three years (1991-1993). Served a mission in Chile Antofagasta (1994-1996). Undergrad at BYU and grad school at U. of Arizona. I won a silver medal at the 2002 Olympics in Jujitsu, garnered a Tony Award for my screenplay of "David's Blue Bell", and currently work as Tony Danza's agent. (Okay, I made the last few things up, but it sounded good. Ring any bells?)

Pappy Yokum - You're right. After re-reading the post, the Diamondbacks reference did not make sense. I've replaced it with an NBA reference and it now sounds a lot better. You've done your good deed for the day.

Last Fast Food Post, Then I'll Shut Up About It

Friday, May 16, 2008

I still remember where I was when Mike Tyson got knocked out by Buster Douglas. It was February 11th, 1990. I was 15 and trying to look cool at a Multi-Stake Dance in Magna, Utah. I spent most of the night adjusting my skinny tie, swaying to "Poison" by Bel Biv Devoe (BBD to those who were cool in 1990), and slow dancing to "Nothing Compares 2 U". And yes, there was usually a Book of Mormon space between me and my dance partner.

At one point during the evening I was standing around talking with a group of guys when one of my friends came in from outside. He had a dazed, stunned, almost somber look on his face. As he weaved toward me, oblivious to the crowd, I though he was going to tell me that something terrible had happened. You know, like my mom had been in a horrible car accident or that he had lost my pair of Girbeaud jeans that I had let him borrow. When he got to me, he lowered the boom with just four words,

"Dude, Tyson got KO'd."

Time stood still. The room started to spin. "Groove Is In The Heart" faded into the background. The world as I knew it ceased to exist. The indestructible, unbeatable, baddest-man-on-the-planet, Iron Mike Tyson, had just lost to some schlep named Buster. What? Who? How?

So what does this have to do with fast food?

Well, In-N-Out is officially the Buster Douglas of my fast food universe. Before the original fast food post I never would have placed In-N-Out in the top-10 most popular restaurants if I were trying to guess them. I've only been there once and it was not particularly memorable. I have seen some In-N-Out t-shirts throughout the course of my life, but had never before realized exactly how popular the place is.

The fight appears to be over, and In-N-Out is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the fast food world. After 160 votes, the In-N-Out cheeseburger is the most popular menu item with 26% of the vote. Similarly, In-N-Out has been voted the most popular restaurant with 25% of the vote. The poll only objectively quantified what I was concluding from the comments that you were all leaving - people are really, really, really passionate about their In-N-Out. Which begs the obvious question:


Does this have anything to do with these four states being the predominant Mormon states of the union? Is it some sort of divine reward only granted to the LDS states? (Okay, I excluded Idaho. But come one, Idaho is really only Utah, Jr. so it doesn't count). Was something bred into our collective DNA as our ancestors pulled handcarts across the plains that would eventually addict us to an Animal Style Cheeseburger? What gives? I am tempted to call their corporate offices and see if they would be willing to let me open some stores in the southeast. It sounds like a lot more fun than flying across the United States laying people off. Anybody want to invest?

While we are talking about me flying around for work and desiring to open up a fast food franchise, I have another idea as well. For a period of time last year I was responsible for overseeing HR in our Latin America facilities. One of them was in El Salvador, and I made several trips down there. The first time I flew home from San Salvador I saw almost every passenger bringing two carry-ons onto the plane. Both carry-ons consisted of Wal-Mart-type plastic bags full of orange cardboard boxes that were similar in size and shape to a shoe box. I could not figure out what everybody was carrying. After about five minutes the entire plane smelled like a Kentucky Fried Chicken. The woman sitting next to me had her arms full of the orange boxes so I asked her what she was taking back to the US with her. Her answer was simple:

"Pollo Campero."

Pollo Campero is like the KFC of El Salvador. Between the 200 people on the flight there were probably 800 boxes of fried wings, breasts, and thighs on the plane. When I asked my seat mate why everybody was taking chicken instead of iPods and Sudoku on a 6-hour international flight, she informed me that there are very few Pollo Campero locations in the US. Apparently her nieces and nephews missed the stuff so much that they still wanted to eat it after a 10-hour ordeal from the time she purchased it until she got it to them in Maryland. Mmmmmmm.....salmonella-licious. It is safe to say that El Salvadorians are as addicted to Pollo Campero as Mormons are to In-N-Out. Again, anybody want to invest?

Thanks to everybody who participated in the poll and left good comments. This has truly been an enlightening experience. A popular song from 1990 perfectly sums up how I feel right now.

"Dance, Bum rush the speaker that booms
I'm killing your brain like a poisonous mushroom
Deadly, when I play a dope melody
Anything less than the best is a felony
Love it or leave it, You better gain way
You better hit bull's eye, The kid don't play
If there was a problem, Yo, I'll solve it
Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it"

Okay, that had nothing to do with my feelings, but Ice Ice Baby was my favorite song in 1990. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to put on my skinny tie, shave stripes into my eyebrows, and then call the CEO's of In-N-Out and Pollo Campero.


-Let the In-N-Out conspiracy theories begin! Between the comments made by 2che, acte gratuit, gregorylemon, and andymann, the whole In-N-Out operation sounds secretive and mysterious. Anti-Mormon Born Again Christians? Geographic restrictions? Family-only ownership? In-N-Out sounds like the fast food equivalent of the Illuminati or Opus Dei from Da Vinci Code. With so much money to be made by going national, it makes me wonder what diabolical secrets lie at the heart of the company that they want to protect from the rest of the country. My personal theory is that they are secretly assembling a powerful army of robotic cats that they will use to take over the world. That's just my theory, though.

Gretchen - You make a great point. How in the world did Chick-fil-A come in second place in the voting for both best menu item (chicken sandwich) and best restaurant? That was also a total shocker. I though Wendy's had #2 in the bag, especially given the popularity of the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. Here is my theory: Most of the people who voted are LDS and respect Chick-fil-A for closing on Sundays. In fact, the Chick-fil-A purpose statement is, "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with our business." How cool is that? I find it interesting that the restaurants that scored highest in the poll had two important characteristics. 1-Both Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out offer very limited, simple menus. 2-Both chains were started by devoutly religious men (In-N-Out by Rich Snyder, a born-again Christian and Chick-fil-A by S. Truett Cathy, a Southern Baptist.) Using that formula, all we need is for Mitt Romney to open a fast food chain that only offers plain hamburgers and water....

Debbie and Meier Family (Candice) - Thank you for the NKOTB reference and for admitting that you practiced the dance moves to Ice Ice Baby. The most embarrassing video that exists of me involves both of those elements. When "Hangin' Tough" by NKOTB was popular I shot a music video where I lip synced the entire song and did the dance moves from the MTV video. That's right, I waved my arm above my head while doing the running man. If you think NKOTB looked nerdy doing that dance routine, you should have seen a gangly Mormon teen-ager with no rhythm trying to pull it off. (Note to my family: If any of you post that video on You Tube, I WILL hunt you down.)

Vote Now: Best Fast Food Item Ever!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I think I know what the Florida elections board must have felt like during the 2000 presidential election. For the past 45 minutes I have been typing every one of the 102 fast food nominations into an Excel spreadsheet, developing a scoring system, and then sorting and scoring the data. The results have been interesting. And delicious. And really, really unhealthy.

Please vote for your overall favorite fast food item and favorite restaurant using the polls on the right-hand side of the blog. The last day to vote is 5/17. The eight most popular menu items from the comments that came in are:

Whopper Jr. (BK)
Western Bacon Cheeseburger (Carl’s Jr.)
Chicken Sandwich (Chick-Fil-A)
Cheeseburger (In-N-Out)
Big Mac (McDonald's)
Sausage Egg McMuffin (McDonald's)
Bean Burrito (Taco Bell)
Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger (Wendy's)

While we await the poll results and crown the winner, there are three other fast-food related issues that I felt needed to be addressed:

First, what the heck is “Animal Style” from In-N-Out? I am envisioning something that involves a blender, salsa and a Muppet, but I’m probably a little off base. There were a few comments that reassured me that I am not the only person on the plant asking this question. (I never would have broached the subject on my own after how much fun so many of you had at my expense when I admitted that I did not know what ROTFLOL stood for.) So can some of you too-cool-for-school Californians enlighten the rest of us hillbillies? With all of the California state taxes, smog, traffic, cost of living, and being home to the Clippers, I am pretty sure after reading your comments that many of you only continue to live there because of In-N-Out. I think I have only been to In-N-Out once in my life, and it had to have been more than ten years ago. Next time I head to Pasadena I promise to go there and get something “Animal Style”, unless it really does involve the blender, salsa and a Muppet.

With regards to beverages, a few of you mentioned that you would wash down your favorite menu items with a cup of water. An anonymous commenter even mentioned starting a fast food joint and having water as the only beverage available. If the rest of you are like me, I almost exclusively just drink water when I get fast food. This is especially true when I am on an “El Cheapo” run (yes, that’s what happens to your Spanish when you’ve been home from your mission for 12 years) trying to get a meal for less than $2.50. How can you justify spending $1.19 for a Sprite when your menu items are all on the $1 menu? Even if I were willing to splurge on a soda, I would still stick with water when ordering a Taco Bell Bean burrito. There is just something magical about the Bean Burrito and water combination. You cannot top it. Unless the water is “Animal Style”, of course.

The third point has to do with my anger toward Subway, which is currently hotter than a toasted Spicy Italian sub. Subway is running a promotion that clearly promises, "Any regular foot-long sandwich for $5". When I saw the first commercial advertising the “Any Foot Long for $5”, I was thrilled because I could get something with steak in it for the price of a cold cut. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I actually went to Subway and learned that by “any regular foot-long”, what they really mean is any Cold Cut, Ham, Tuna, Vegetarian, and sandwiches made from horse meat and compressed wood chips. Subway should be ashamed for being so willfully deceitful with this campaign. It is obviously a bait-and-switch designed to increase customer visits by making us believe that we can get a premium sandwich (e.g. philly cheese steak, steak and cheese, chicken & bacon ranch, etc.) for only $5. You would expect an underhanded move like this from Quick Eddie’s Used Cars and Bail Bonds, but not from my beloved Subway. Am I the only person who was fooled by this ploy, or were any of you suckered as well? I am still so mad about this that if I ever see Jared from Subway walking down the street, I am totally going “Animal Style” on him (after all, I'm pretty sure that I can take him now that he has withered away to about 87 pounds and no longer has any muscle mass in his body. Yep, I'm a real tough guy.)

Thanks for all of the comments and good luck voting. May the best item win.

All of this typing is making me hungry. I wonder how long it would take me to get to Taco Bell...


-jolene, jana, and makakona: Come on guys, let's get the story straight on what Animal Style really is. After reading all of the conflicting descriptions, I am starting to believe that "Animal Style" is the equivalent to something called "Magic Spaghetti" in our home. One night our kids were not thrilled about eating the spaghetti that I had made for dinner, so I asked them to come into the kitchen and put a magic spell on it. We all stood over the pot, waved our fingers, and simultaneously chanted, "magic spaghetti, magic spaghetti, MAGIC SPAGHETTI!" (The ritual stopped there. It did not involve goat's blood, candles, levitating pasta, or anything creepy like that.) Three years later and the kids still make sure the spaghetti is "magic" before we eat it. Both of the kids think the magic spell makes the spaghetti taste better, even though it doesn't really have any influence on the taste. I am now beginning to believe that Animal Style has the same effect. There really is no such thing. You are just eating a plan cheeseburger, but your brain is just tricking you into thinking your bland burger is smothered with grilled onions, fried mustard, enchanted pickles, mystical tomatoes, and supernatural thousand island dressing.

-Travis, Andymann, and Mama Cow: Thank you for sharing your anger toward Subway's promotion and for letting me know about the new Quizno's $5 deal. I decided to go online to do some additional research about both promotions, and now I am even more upset with Subway! Not only are they lying about the $5 promotion, they are completely demeaning Pres. Abraham Lincoln in their online ad campaign. It is horrible. Look at the tasteless way they have shamed one of our most beloved Presidents in their callous effort to hawk more subs:

What's worse, when you go to SubwayFreshBuzz.com, the insulting caricature of Pres. Lincoln starts talking like a ghetto slob and tells you that you can, "text a holla to your crew", about the $5 campaign. At least Quizno's explicitly states that their $5 subs only include four sandwiches, with the premium subs costing $7 and $9. The next time I'm craving a sub, I am avoiding Subway simply out of spite. Hmmm...maybe a good blog post could stem from me calling Subway's corporate headquarters with my complaints and see how they respond. We'll see.

The Mt. Rushmore of Fast Food

Monday, May 05, 2008

My job responsibilities require me to travel once or twice a month to visit the manufacturing plants that I oversee from an HR standpoint. While I generally dislike traveling since nearly every flight is delayed and it's hard to fold a 6'6" body into a cramped middle seat on a US Air regional jet, there are a few perks that go along with it. The first is that I get to stay in hotels that completely spoil me. When our family takes a vacation we almost always Priceline our motel and see what we can get for $29.99 per night. When I travel for work, we get company rates for nice places like the Ritz-Carlton (Pasadena) and Weston (Boston). Yeah, I've become a hotel snob, but it is the least the company can do after the headaches, physical toll, and separation from family that come with business travel.

The second perk that comes with traveling for work is that I can go to restaurants that are a little classier than I normally go to. All of my meals comply with the company travel policy and I am not racking up hundred dollar tabs or anything, but I tend to eat more fillet mignon than Nachos Bell Grande when I am out of town for work.

Two weeks ago I was visiting my plant in Rock Hill, South Carolina and only had a few minutes for lunch and the closest restaurant was Hardee's. (Note: It is called "Hardee's" in the eastern states and "Carl's Jr." in the west. This was a difficult adjustment for me when we moved from Arizona to North Carolina. Also, in the east "Dryers" ice cream is called "Edie's" and small hills are called "mountains". Sometimes I feel like I'm living int the Twilight Zone out here. I live in constant fear that a possessed, talking wind-up doll is going to threaten my life any day now.) It was the first time I had been to Hardee's/Carl's Jr. in about six years. Ever since Hardee's decided to market itself by essentially saying, "Forget it! Women never eat here anyway! Let's just embrace this fact and start making sexist commercials, offend every woman in America, and stack our menu with burgers containing three pounds of meat. We can also post signs on our doors that say, 'No Girls Allowed' and give swirlies to nerdy-looking guys who dare to come in here and eat lunch with all of the burly construction workers who pack our restaurant." Their effort to isolate females has been successful with the NMW, so we never eat at Hardee's.

Since I was by myself and my company was paying for lunch, I decided to branch out and order a Jalapeño Thick Burger. It was so big and heavy that they rolled it out to me on a dolly and then team-lifted it up to my table. The next several minutes passed as follows:

12:16 - Took first bite.
12:18 - Still chewing first bite.
12:22 - Swallowed first jalapeño pepper, back of neck beginning to sweat.
12:27 - Finished half of burger, only 420 calories and 29 grams of fat left to go.
12:29 - Feeling...really...sleepy.
12:51 - Wake up from power nap, stomach feels prepared to continue conquest of Jalapeño Thick Burger.
12:57 - Experienced jalapeño-induced hallucination featuring Mayor McCheese, a flame thrower, the A-Team, and a talking Pez dispenser.
1:06 - Finally finished the entire burger.
1:08 - Heart stops beating, collapse to the floor.
1:13 - Resuscitated by Hardee's staff who happen to be well-trained in the use of Automated External Defibrillators (AED's) since customers go into cardiac arrest on a daily basis before leaving the restaurant.

Despite the six pounds I gained that day, I absolutely loved the burger. While I was eating it I was mentally ranking where the Jalapeño Thick Burger fell when compared to my other favorite fast food menu items. My conclusion? Fourth. After giving this topic a significant amount of thought, here is my Mount Rushmore (Top-4) of fast food menu items:

#4 - Hardee's Jalapeño Thick Burger
#3 - Subway Cold Cut Trio (with extra mayo, lettuce, and extra black olives)
#2 - Arby's Chicken Cordon Bleu (with extra mayo)
#1 - McDonald Big Mac (with extra sauce)

If you are wondering - yes, I weigh 420 pounds and there is more mayonnaise coursing through my veins than white blood cells. Oh well, whatever doesn't kill you only damages important internal organs. Because so many of the people who read this blog fit the fast food demographic [on-the-go with young kids, possibly in college, and frugal (read: cheap)], I thought it would be interesting to get your take on your Mount Rushmore of fast food menu items.

Please post a comment with your top-4 fast food menu items. Based upon the results, I will set up a poll sometime over the next few days to let everybody vote until we ultimately determine the most popular fast food item in the world.

And if you have never tried the Jalapeño Thick Burger, you really should. If nothing else, the hallucinations make it totally worth it. Just watch out for the burly construction guys. They'll have your head in a toilet faster than you can swipe your debit card. Believe me, I know.

(On occasion a comment gets posted that deserves to be highlighted or instigates a response from me. In order to help these side conversations not get buried in the usual comments section, I'm going to post about them here.)

-Pappy Yokum:
I think you are right that Training Table and other sit-down restaurants do not qualify as fast food. I should have clarified that better in the beginning. I think the restaurant needs to have a legitimate drive-thru or be a small mom-and-pop to be considered.

-Carolyn: YAMMCUALLSH (that is the acronym for "You almost made me caugh up a lung laughing so hard). I'm hoping it replaces ROTFL, we'll see. Your account of the drive-thru attendant answering your question with, "Ma'am? It's flame broiled", was hilarious. It made me think of an old episode of Dr. Katz where his patient tells him, "In Quebec, the fast food workers are all bilingual. In the States, they are not even lingual. One time I had to draw a picture of a hamburger before they understood what I wanted. When I tried to tell the worker I wanted it 'to go', I had to draw feet on the bottom of the bun." Good times.

-Bracken96: You make a great point about the under $2 vs. over $2 menu items. I had actually thought about putting some sort of price stipulation in there, but concluded that it may lead to too much confusion. There is something to be said for the whole cost/taste/full-stomach dynamic. When I go to a fast food joint, I am almost always weighing those three factors. Would I rather spend $3 at McDonalds for 2 Double Cheeseburgers and a Chicken Nuggets, or spend the same amount on a single Big Mac? If you factored in price, the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger and Whopper Jr. would run away with the contest. However, I really wanted to focus more on "best tasting", not necessarily best overall value.

-Another Quick NMH Comment:
It was really, really hard for me to leave Wendy's Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger off of my Mt. Rushmore. That tasty little sandwich has been there for me through thick and thin. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone straight from work to Bishopric with two dollars and some change in my pocket and grabbed two JBC's before our meetings started. I almost consider it a family friend at this point, but I think that my four selections in the post actually taste better.

The other item that was hard to leave off was a random menu item called a Mushroom Thing served at a place called Scott's in West Valley City, UT. Scott's shut down when I was a teen-ager, but I can still taste a mushroom thing dripping in fry sauce as if I had one yesterday. Mmmm...fried mushrooms on a stick....