Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Big Day Right After the Big Day

The last time I wrote one of these it was Labor Day. Well, good thing not much has happened since then, right?

Actually, since I last wrote, we crammed as much activity into the dying days of our summer as we could; trips to the park, concerts on the square, trips to nearby pools and lakes.

Mrs. Blackwell and I even went to Europe where I managed to get food poisoning. (A bit of advice: avoid the meat platters in Prague.) Master Blackwell enrolled at a new school and started music lessons, the new little guy took his first steps and the United States had an election.

Yes life's been busy and despite this blog's extensive global readership (stay strong Belarus!)  its superb design and cutting-edge content offerings (I have a Twitter feed!) it doesn't generate the revenue one might think.
Eyeing his prey.

So, "real work" and family have been keeping me quite busy of late. But I'm back in the saddle now and with the holidays right around the corner, there couldn't be a better time to resume this little labor of love.

In just a few hours, along with some of my American friends and family, I'll celebrate Thanksgiving. We'll eat, drink and consider the many, many things for which we should be grateful.
A role model to show him how it's done.

Meanwhile north of the border, my Canadian friends and family who celebrated Thanksgiving last month will continue their struggle to comprehend just what the hell is happening down here. While we eat and drink, they'll just drink.

Like the rest of the world, the vast majority of Canadians are still trying to wrap their minds around the presidential election. The ascension of Donald Trump has left me as sort of a "Chief Explainer" to many of my Canadian friends.

I'd like to think that my time covering local and state politics, a masters degree studying government, including loads of work on political polling, make me an expert — but even in the most ordinary of times they don't. (If you need expertise on discreet ways of determining if your undershirt is clean while you're in a meeting, I'm your guy.)

In extraordinary times like these, I might as well have spent my life living in a cave, such was the ability of anyone to predict what happened.

Political insanity notwithstanding, we had other immediate needs.

As America was testing the raison d'ĂȘtre of the electoral college, we were pulling together a birthday celebration for the new little guy.

That's right, our big, bouncing, beautiful baby boy turned one year old the day after the day many people think the world began to end.

Like lots of folks, we found ourselves turning away from the outside world for a few hours and focusing solely on something closer and, in our case, something cuter.

It was a welcome pivot and frankly after 18 tumultuous, frustrating months of having lies and bile heaped upon us daily, we earned a few hours to decompress and focus solely on what's most important, the little guy's big day.

The little guy is, in fact, not little. He's a great, big, bull of a kid whose heft is matched only by his smile. On his first annual checkup his weight measured in the 98th percentile while his length put him in the 97th.

So he's big, which is great because big babies are sturdy and can roll off the couch without getting hurt. But it's terrible because he's slowly destroying my back and I'm pretty sure Mrs. Blackwell is an inch shorter than she was last year.
Mom shows him how to keep it cleanwhile enjoying a meal. 

Each and every time he cries to be picked up, I pause and really think about what I'm about to do: "Lift with the legs, back straight. Hold your breath. Pray."

It behooves me to mention here that the boy loves to be picked up and carried along for the ride, even if its just from the kitchen to the living room. So, perfect "picking up" form is a must as it's an act that's regularly repeated.

Another of his emerging traits is an unwillingness to sit still.

It's not like his older brother was ever a sedentary creature but instead of giving us a break, the universe decided to ladle mobility upon the boy's perpetual motivation. Now that the little guy is transitioning from crawling to walking, the game is changing.

So, we're vigilant about the baby gate, about what doors to what rooms are open and when. We know "who's got the baby" at any given moment.

All this said, this is a fantastic age. It might not be an easy age but it's uncomplicated.

If he's hungry, he lets us know. If he's tired, he lets us know. If he wants attention, well, not much time goes by before he lets us know.

From the perspective of his mother and I, it's reassuring that his needs are so simple and easy to address.

We know that this time is fleeting. That first birthday just breezed by; soon it will be his second, then his third.

But his first is a big one and, given that it happened on the day the U.S. presidential election was settled, I felt a bit bad, like the little guy got short shrift.

Thankfully I married a smart woman.

As she so often does, Mrs. Blackwell had a plan and we had a followup party planned for Saturday. We had a few friends pop by. I grilled. Mrs. Blackwell went all out making cupcakes and icing from scratch. We had a few beers but, unlike election night, this drinking was voluntary.

And the little guy ate and smiled and laughed and the last thing on my mind, for a while anyways, was Donald Trump.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Social Butterfly Who Weighs a Ton

The New Little Guy is many things.

Physically, he's a big boy. He's also a smiler. He's a talker. He's a crawler. He's an eater. He's an adventurer.
When he's not talking or laughing he's
practicing good oral hygiene with
his Mom's toothbrush. 

Above all, he's a social creature.

But when he is alone, entertaining himself on the living room floor for instance, he doesn't remain in silence as he's often providing a soundtrack of sorts.

And that's great for Mrs. Blackwell and I because, even if he's out of sight for a moment, there's usually a chorus of noise to announce his precise whereabouts.

There are the squeals, squawks, yelps and laughs — lots and lots of laughs, including one that sounds like he stole it from one of Bevis or Butthead.

And, because I can't leave him hanging, I'll counter his laugh in similar fashion. And because he's apparently seen Bevis and Butthead, he'll counter my laugh with another of his own.

So, we'll go back and forth, offering each other laughs that sound as if we're both mentally deficient.

He enjoys all manner of back and forth, not just laughter. Sometimes he's content take a passive role. He'll sit on someone's lap (usually Mrs. Blackwell or myself) while two people have a conversation. But it usually doesn't take long before he requires a heavier level of engagement.

He'll turn and attempt to pull himself to a standing position. Once achieved, he'll move his face directly in front of his mom's or mine, before opening his mouth and drooling on one of our noses.

He could likely do this for hours. Unfortunately neither I, nor his mother, have the stamina, or tolerance for someone else's drool running down our face.

So, oftentimes, we'll put him on the ground and just as often he doesn't like this and he'll let us know by beginning to cry the moment he's set down. This cry isn't one of pain, discomfort, hunger or any of life's necessities going unmet. Nope, it's a clear, cogent and potent demand for hands-on attention.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like this every time he's set down. It's whenever he decides he's interested in us.
In one of his parents' arms. AKA right where he belongs.

To that end, he frequently tries to keep up with Mrs. Blackwell or myself, to be part of whatever exciting adventure we're partaking in.

So if one of us is walking toward the kitchen pantry, he's crawling and shuffling behind. If we're heading back toward the kitchen counter he's right on our heels.

But it usually takes just a few back-and-forth trips before he decides he's had enough and demands to be picked up.

I'll offer up the disclaimer that, yes, Mrs. Blackwell and I both know this is how babies start manipulating and training their parents. The jury will be out for the next 18 years or so as to whether we're handling this right.

So, yes, a big part of his being social also means being directly held or otherwise handled.

At this juncture, it's also pertinent to remember what I mentioned at the top here about the boy being heavy. It's been a while since he's been weighed but suffice it to say, he's a load. After about 3 minutes of holding him, my arms start turning to jelly.

So, I put him down which, as previously mentioned, is frequently met with instantaneous crying.

Now of course there are times when we let him voice his displeasure for a few minutes while we wrap up whatever it is we're working on.

Like I said, he's open to conversation with anyone. 
But sometimes, you just don't want to hear a baby cry. Sometimes you need to be able to hear yourself think.

So, for us, sometimes the only answer is to hold onto him while we go about doing whatever it is we need to do, usually it's something fun like putting groceries away or cleaning up a spill on the kitchen floor before running out the door late for work.

All the while, we're holding the little guy and all the while, he's invariably satisfied to be held.

As I mentioned before, we're well aware of the perils of this arrangement. One can easily flash forward a few years and see a spoiled, corpulent, 12-year-old throwing his dinner plate across the table demanding that his mother or father "make more food!" or some equally disturbing scenario.

For now, this arrangement works — most of the time. Eventually Mother Nature will take over, he really will be too big for us to hold onto and we'll have no choice in the matter.

And, come to think of, maybe it's that thought that makes picking him up worth it each and every time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

He's (Always) on the Move

My day starts like most people who've got a couple little kids I'd bet.

The alarm goes off and I fight it for as long as possible before finally relenting, rolling out of bed and beginning my day. It usually starts the same way it ends, with a quick check on the boys.

Wake up time and eating time elicit similarly
happy responses.
I go to the New Little Guy's room because more often than not, I can hear that he's up. Most days he's sitting up in his crib just squeaking, squealing and chattering away giving notice that he's awake.

When I crack open his door, I'll observe him on his own for a moment or two then I'll make a noise to draw his attention.

Invariably, he'll turn his head and smile and instantaneously wash away my early morning malaise. After all, when a kid greets you like that, you've got to at least pretend to be chipper.

In short order, I'll retrieve the guy from his crib, he'll pat my back with his closed hand as if to say, "Let's go old man, I've got things to do."

In no time at all I am indeed a little more chipper, no need to pretend.

Next up is The Boy and this is more of a crap shoot.

Some mornings he too is wearing an ear-to-ear grin while others he'll pull the covers over his face and say to me, "Would you like to leave you alone now?"

First-person, second-person confusion notwithstanding, his message is pretty clear: "Dad, leave me alone."

Just as frequently he's smiling and quick to suggest we go downstairs and make breakfast.

After these exchanges the routine loosens. I'll often head back to my room with the little guy. I'll play with him on the bed for a bit before realizing far more time has passed than I'd thought.

Sometimes The Boy quietly reads a book as we
we get ready. Other times he dances on
 the couch with his gigantic zucchini. 
Then Mrs. Blackwell and I begin the mad dash getting ourselves and a combination of the boys ready for the day ahead.

Outfits must be assembled.

Coffee must be brewed.

Lunches must be made and, somewhere in there, I've got to take a shower, as does Mrs. Blackwell.

In the midst of the madness the boy will often do his own thing; he'll sit on mom and dad's bed and play with a book or magnetic letters and, while the world swirls about him, the New Little Guy decides that he too wants to take part.

His goals however are not so multi-pronged as his parents'.

In fact, his goal is singular: whenever mom and dad aren't looking, get to the stairs as quickly as possible.

He's nine months old and while he can climb stairs, he's not equipped to descend them. And while we've got a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs, for a variety of reasons, we don't have one at the top.

So, we just have to be aware because he's clearly taken it as a deeply personal challenge to get to the stairs. It's to the point that, if Mrs. Blackwell or I catch him before he's made it, he'll accelerate his pace to a full-sprint crawl in the hopes that he'll outpace us.

It's equal parts hilarious and terrifying to watch your baby's chubby little legs and arms hustle as fast as they can toward a flight of stairs.

Caught! Moments before his next foray into
the shower.  
To combat this, we've taken to putting the New Little Guy on the floor in our bedroom — with the door closed — when we're showering or otherwise busy. He can crawl around in there while we do our thing and he's never a half-second out of sight.

So there are no stairs to concern us when he's confined to the bedroom but, God bless the little guy, that doesn't mean there isn't a way for him to keep the proceedings interesting.

Because he likes to be near the action, he's taken to staying in the bathroom while I shower.

He'll tug on the shower curtain and prop himself up on the tub. It's actually a further convenience for me because he's that much closer to me and that much further from trouble, or so I thought.

Earlier this week he negated this sense of security.

As I stood in the shower struggling to make myself presentable for the outside world, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the warm water for just a moment. That moment was — apparently — far too long.

When opened my eyes, the shower curtain was no longer fluttering under the little guy's grip. Instead the inside clear curtain fluttered inward toward me.

My gaze fell immediately to the shower floor and just as it did, I saw the little guy gently slide down into the tub with his big, blonde head leading the way.

When all else fails an orange Slinky provides about 30
seconds of distraction before he's again
trying to crawl into the tub. 
There was no thud. It was more like someone had slipped a wet fish over the edge of the tub and let its weight guide it down and through.

His upper body carried him clear through to the other side of the tub and the slick surface provided momentum enough for him to glide and rotate smoothly onto his back. I'm pretty sure the water didn't so much as ripple around his chubby, cherubic form.

My first reaction was a mixture of reflexive fear and shock. And, if the look on the little guy's face was any indication, he was equally shocked himself.

In a moment his eyes shifted, narrowed and his mouth started to turn downward. It seemed to me that he knew he'd bitten off a bit more than he could chew and with his bed time shirt and a — thankfully — fresh diaper getting soaked, he was getting less comfortable by the moment.

I got his clothes off, cut my losses and decided to continue the shower with the little guy in tow. Naturally, he agreed with that decision.

So, there we were taking an impromptu shower together. Me getting later for work by the moment and he, once again, grinning ear to ear pleased as punch to be part of the action.