Friday, January 29, 2016

98, 97, 96 and My Wife's Age

From the moment he was born our newest little guy has possessed a voracious appetite. Mrs. Blackwell can attest to this fact. She lives it multiple times a day, everyday and every night.

Our little dude likes to eat. And eat. And eat. And eat.

From his birth weight and other newborn measurements we knew he was bigger than normal and as the weeks passed, we observed he was growing and putting on a healthy layer of baby fat rather quickly.

Well, we didn't know just how much the kid was growing until his two-month check-up recently.

It was then that the doctors revealed a few surprising statistics.

The 98th Percentile. 

That's where the size of the boy's head is. And, for this, I could take complete responsibility. I have a large, large head. That said, so does Mrs. Blackwell. Fortunately we're both front-to-back big, like James Cameron's 'Alien' as opposed to side-to-side big like Stewie Griffin.

Regardless, buying hats for this kid means we'll need to ignore the standard measurements like "infant" and "newborn."

And while we're out hat shopping, maybe we'll want to look pick up some gift certificates for the grocery store because our suspicions about the boy's appetite are confirmed by the fact that his weight is in...

The 97th Percentile. 

Like I said, he was born big but, not this big. I suppose I noticed this a couple of weeks ago when I realized that I couldn't carry him around the house without getting tired rather quickly.

That's because he weighs more than 16 pounds. Muscular guys out there might shrug at this but I ask you to travel up and down stairs, bend down, stand up and walk around for a few minutes all the while holding this little tub of love and then judge me.

It only makes sense that a kid of such considerable heft would require a larger amount of  sustenance. By extension, it makes sense that we'd consider investing in an up-and-coming grocery store chain — God knows, they're going to be getting our money anyways.

And while we're on the topic of investments Mrs. Blackwell and I will probably need to invest in a new car seat soon because the boy's height/length is now in....

The 96th Percentile.

His brother is tall. His mom is tall. I'm taller than average so, this isn't a surprise. But, it's a bit early to see his feet nearly dangling out of his car seat.

At some point it becomes a farce for me to call him my "little guy." And I wonder if he might just be the first in the Blackwell clan to dunk a basketball; my older brother's claim to have dunked a volleyball, notwithstanding.
Don't kid yourself. If he got the chance he'd devour you
and everyone you love. 

He's a big, big boy and while I know his grandfathers will envision him growing up and playing football, I'm just thinking about grocery bills when he's a teenager.

From the ages of 14-18 my brothers and I were insatiable, remorseless eating machines. I don't remember what the family grocery bill was because when you're a teenager who cares about mom and dad's money, right? But I can assure you, my brothers and I might as well have been a swarm of locusts leaving only bones and empty packages in our wake.

Now, based on the title of this thread you might be wondering how my wife's age fits into all of this.

Well, it doesn't really. It was just a hamhanded way of positioning this awkward segue to...

Wish my wife the happ-happ-happiest birthday!

That's right, today is her big day. And it couldn't have come at a better time.

We just put our new little guy in day care, which is a stress in and of itself. Master Blackwell is in the midst of potty training. Also, he had an accident this week and got a pretty deep gouge into his eye that required two trips to the doctors office.

Mrs. Blackwell just returned to work this week. So sleep has been at a premium just when it's needed most.

All of which is to say, we're desperate and we've been pining for today for a few weeks now. We've made plans for tonight to take a break from the kids and enjoy a couple of hours to recharge by enjoying each other's company, some good drinks and good food.

With all this in mind it seemed only natural when the sitter texted Mrs. Blackwell yesterday and cancelled on us.
Her fan club grows by the day.

Because she's an optimist and she's perpetually positive, Mrs. Blackwell didn't waste much time thinking about how this would affect us. There were two kids crying in her backseat when she got this news.

Yet she focused, made a couple of calls. Good fortune shined upon us and we found another sitter on the shortest of notice.

I have to believe this happened because every once in a while, the cosmos decides that some folks just need a damn break. I also believe that those breaks tend to go to folks like my wife who don't let the bad moments get them down for long. They think forward and move on.

I didn't know how deep her well of restraint, focus, will power and resolve was when we first celebrated her birthday together seven years ago.

I know today. I know and I'm so glad I had the brains to sink my hooks into her and never let go. And I never will.

Happy birthday sweetie. You make life for me and your boys better each and every day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Beer, Resolutions and the Kid Disco

The #5 beer on Earth according to Beer
Advocate. Still saving up to try the #5 scotch.
As regular readers of this space are well aware, I enjoy beer.

I like the taste. I like the smell. I like the effect and I enjoy commiserating with friends while we all enjoy good beer. It is one of life's true joys.

Some of my more refined friends enjoy scotch. I like it too but it's just not my drink. It's heavy, less social and imbibers tend to be less ebullient than the beer crowd.

Aside from being delicious, beer possesses a margin of error other potables do not.

Drinks like scotch can equal a full-day's commitment if you have more than two. When you've got kids to keep up with, spending a day working off a scotch hangover isn't an option.

Over the space of a couple hours one can responsibly enjoy a couple beers while still maintaining control of one's faculties or finding themselves in need of an excellent legal team.

In the event that I needed to make the case in favor of beer, I believe I've done just that. I like it a lot, so perhaps this helps lend some gravitas to my beer-related New Year's resolution.

You might remember that I said I would only enjoy beer on three occasions through the month of January. 

Well, so far so good.
Before the crowd arrived the boy (in blue) and a couple
of other early arrivals had the floor to themselves. 

But it hasn't been easy and I'm now walking a very, fine line.

On Friday the 15th a group of friends gathered for a rare meeting of the minds at a local tavern. Over the course of three hours we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, solved all the world's problems and decided we wouldn't wait so long before doing it again.

So, one beer day had been exhausted but, I still had two left and it was already halfway through the month.

Provided I was judicious, I'd be able to enjoy beer once per week for the next two weeks and still achieve my resolution.

But, I wasn't judicious and here's why.

They call it Kid Disco and on Saturday January 16th, I went.

Essentially what happens at Kid Disco is parents bring their kids while a local DJ (who actually happens to be a renowned international DJ with kids of his own) spins fantastic tunes.

There's a bubble machine, more kids than you can count and loads of parents without a care in the world.

It's also hosted inside the cozy confines of a venerable local brewery. And that, dear reader, is a crucial point and one that brings me back to my original point — and my beer-related resolution.
Cozying up to the DJ and always, always,
always eyeing the monitor to see what
he was going to play next. 

Because, while it's great to find a place where you can take your kids and they can meet other kids and listen to great music and dance like little kids do, it's doubly great to find a place where you can take your kids to enjoy these things while you enjoy beer — responsibly.

And on that last matter, I feel (sadly) compelled to remind people that thankfully no one has ruined this yet.

Drinking too much at Kid Disco would be like getting hammered at a neighborhood block party. If you lack the self control to enjoy beer responsibly in front of kids, you deserve every, single shred of ridicule and scorn your community can conjure up to hurl at you.

But, like I said, not an issue.

Nope, instead I was worry free, enjoying excellent beer while watching North Carolina basketball on two of the 20 screens at my disposal.

Mrs. Blackwell, as she often does, was out working the room and making friends.

Meanwhile, Master Blackwell ran around with other kids, danced, sang and shouted. Our new little guy — trooper that he is — slept through all of it.

So, I'm down to just one beer day left for the month. Mrs. Blackwell's birthday is later this week and she's doing her best to ensure that this is the day I burn it. She's got competition though. This weekend marks the first Kid Disco since we last went.
The little guy woke up just as we were getting ready to go.
He's got perfect timing. 

Maybe I'll want to save my beer day for that? But save I must.

Lord knows, it's not much of a resolution but, it's mine. I made it and I can still finish it.

Yes, it might be modest but I'm 'thhiiisssss' (thumb and index finger a nanometer apart) close to achieving it.

There are others I've set out of course. Some I've yet to start while others (like losing belly fat) are presumably well under way.

We'll see but, it's been interesting to me to observe in myself — for the first time ever — that 26 days into the new year, I've still got one resolution I haven't broken.

You'll know whether I've done it or not either by a blog post in which I pat my own back for 400 words, or if I never write of it again.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The State of Our Union is Good

I'm asked frequently how Master Blackwell is adjusting to the arrival of his little brother.

The quick answer is, he's doing quite well. 

He's still giggling, still in love with Mickey Mouse and we haven't discovered any plans scrawled in crayon detailing imminent reprisals against his mother and I. 

That's not to say that things haven't changed, because they have. Good lord, they have. But I believe the change is mostly with Mrs. Blackwell and I. 

Because she's prone to feel guilt much in the same way sociopaths feel nothing, Mrs. Blackwell has a long list of ways in which the boy's life is more difficult now that his little brother has arrived. The thread binding each of these together is that in some way, shape or form, she has failed. 

She should be doing this. She should have done that. If only she'd thought to do it this way. And, on and on. 

Perhaps it's because she's a first-born child old enough to remember the arrival of her younger sibling, her sensitivity to the boy's perceived plight is so acute.

On the flipside, perhaps it's because I'm a middle child, second born to a brother gifted with an abundance of natural charisma, that I'm less sensitive to these shifts. Additionally, I was 15 months old when my younger brother was born so whatever limelight I might have had as the "new baby" was short lived and too early for me to remember. 

It'll be a frigid day in hell when we get them
to both look and smile simultaneously.
Point being Mrs. Blackwell feels she's letting the boy down.   

And because I'm easily satisfied and probably oblivious, I don't see it. I see the same happy little boy I always have who loves his mom, loves his dad and — as is expected with the arrival of a new sibling — is throwing tantrums a bit more now than he did before. 

But, let's for a moment say that Mrs. Blackwell is right. Let's say that the boy has sensed the shift of his world far beyond the obvious factors like time with — and attention from — his parents. Let's say that he's bearing the emotional brunt of considerations that we aren't aware of. 

It's possible. And, I'd never presume to know exactly what he's going through.  But I would presume to suggest that it's well worth the many benefits he'll take from having a brother.

Like much of life's growth, it's not easy but it sure seems necessary. And, like much of what we endure before the age of four, he won't remember it.

Life as we currently know it is only rarely life as we once knew it. Things change and I'm happy the boy is getting acquainted with that early on.

This might not be enough to sate the emotional sensitivities of the marvelous woman I married, but it's enough for her (apparently) emotionally stunted husband.


Mrs. Blackwell and I are feeling the grind of this expedition. My life consists of work, then home and then attempting to relieve her. I don't go out with the guys for beers. I don't watch the game at a buddy's place.

It's work. It's home and, on weekends, we spice things up by going to the grocery store. That's it. It's also what we signed up for, so I'm not looking for sympathy. It could be worse of course. We've got our health. We've got a roof over our head. We don't live in Syria.

For her part Mrs. Blackwell is on the tail end of her maternity leave and while she won't admit it, she has to be looking forward to getting back to her work and her research.

"It's all good."
I don't care how cute a baby is (and this little guy is absurdly cute) I don't care how in love with him or her you might be, they're still a baby and when you're trapped inside of a house with one (alone) for 45 hours a week for three straight months, I can see how one might go a little nuts — or at least a little weird.

Fortunately my wife has avoided going crazy and signs of emerging weirdness are not yet evident. (Though she does get this look in her eyes sometimes that just lets me know, it's time.)

For now, her only relief comes in short spells. When I come home from work and try to take the little guy off her hands, it's often not for long.

For a time I can keep him occupied and I enjoy holding and playing with him. It's not interactive necessarily, but watching his eyes widen when he's lifted up high, is a particularly funny sight.

But then he starts crying. In response, I look for ways to settle him but my playbook is woefully thin and consists of little more than holding him in different ways, offering a litany of strange noises I think might be appealing to a baby, or walking around the house and trying to distract him in any way I can.

More often than not I fail, the boy turns as red as a tomato and Mrs. Blackwell needs to return to mop up for me. 

So she's always on, whether I'm there or not. If there is one thing I remember from going through this the first time, it's that just when you think you're at the end of your rope, things have a way of changing for the better. In this instance the boy is approaching an age and weight which will see him sleeping for much longer stretches.

Relief, at long last, is in sight.

Until it arrives we remain grateful for that beautiful, smiling, cooing, grunting, pudgy baby boy as proof again that change is often arduous but, just as often, well, well worth it.