A baby shower nowadays almost requires a degree in engineering to figure out...

Mandi Aukerman-Flanagan unwrapped yet another gift and pondered it thoughtfully before the more experienced moms in the crowd explained it was a "soothing sounds" sleep aid for baby. "Thank God my next-door neighbors have five kids so I can ask questions," Mandi grinned broadly. A baby shower nowadays almost requires a degree in engineering to figure out all the cool gadgets that go along with parenthood. Mandi and her husband Conor Flanagan are expecting their first child on Oct. 25, and they already know she's a girl and her name will be Eliana, or Ellie for short. Mandi's mother, Nina Aukerman, traveled over from her Xenia home and hosted a baby shower with Mandi's mother-in-law, Mary Hill, at the Jefferson County Club, near Mary's home in Blacklick. "It's the same place we had our wedding reception," Mandi, also a resident of Blacklick, explained, "so it's really meaningful." Happily, the shower was a simple but meaningful blend of old and new traditions. Future "Nana" Nina had found all sorts of decorative touches at a JoAnn Fabrics store. The bright centerpieces had pink plastic diaper pins hanging from the ribbons and teething rings peeking out from amid the flowers. There were baby-shower themed bingo cards with pink plastic pacifiers to serve as the game pieces. The food was also delicately girly-themed for the 30 gals gathered that Sunday afternoon - finger sandwiches filled with tuna salad, grilled veggies or ham salad, phyllo cups piled with chicken salad and garnished with popcorn shoots, a pasta salad made by Nina, cheese and fruit platters, and strawberry-orange punch to drink. Pink-frosted cupcakes came from Capital Bakery in Bexley, where Conor grew up. And the party favors for each guest were custom-decorated sugar cookies, made by Mandi's childhood friend Lindsey Tewanger, who recently started her own Cookie Cravings Bakery business. "Each one is slightly different," Mandi marveled, looking at the cookies that had been baked the shapes of crowns and baby onesies and then piped with pink, white and green royal icing. The guests were a mix of family and friends of all ages. Future big cousin Holyn Aukerman, 10, had just driven in for the party from Indianapolis that morning with her mother, Marcie. "I can play with her and babysit her," said Holyn, relishing the arrival of her first cousin. And judging by the enthusiastic guests, beaming grandmothers-to-be and glowing mom-to-be, Holyn isn't the only one looking forward to Ellie's imminent arrival.