Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Beer & Parenting — Mutually Exclusive After All

Before Master Blackwell was born, I knew that opportunities to act upon my love of beer and drink would be curtailed — significantly.

This, obviously, was no revelation.

One can't be inebriated while taking care of a child, or so "Johnny-Law-Dog," says. I get it.

So, if one is to enjoy more than just a couple beers, they'd better get a babysitter or make sure a spouse is staying sober. Do one of those two things and you're free for the night.

And while this is true, it's equally true that you are most certainly not free the following morning. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the rub.

Because, as I'm learning in my advancing age, one doesn't have to drink like a college junior on spring break to be smacked down hard by the after affects of partying.

In fact, if the conditions are juuust right, one could consume a fairly modest amount of booze and be hung right-the-hell-over the next day.

Father and son, with matching shirts? Yes, we are that
kind of cool. 
Naturally, I learned this fact the way I'm destined to learn most of life's most painful lessons — the hard way.

Which brings me to Saturday night, a special evening for the Blackwell clan. We attended a beautiful wedding for a great couple. For a change we actually knew the bride and groom, instead of sneaking into their wedding for free dinner and dancing.

Mrs. Blackwell looked beautiful, the boy cleaned up nicely and they let me enter the building without me threatening legal action or pulling my trump card, the old "Do you know who I am?" routine.

So, we got off to a good start.

Several of our friends were on hand, including another young woman who, like Mrs. Blackwell, is pregnant. With a kindred spirit on hand, I didn't feel too bad about checking out on Mrs. Blackwell a bit, by having a few drinks.

As for the boy, well, I wouldn't be the primary caretaker but I'd be a serviceable backup for Mrs. Blackwell, there for all the menial tasks, except driving. (Unless of course we're driving just a couple miles; then it's cool, right?)

For the evening, my worth proved to rest somewhere between mediocre date and a fake fig tree. I told a couple of jokes at the dinner table that landed with a laugh. Then, of course, I got way too comfortable and told a couple that didn't land. Mrs. Blackwell was there, as she always is, to keep me tethered to Earth and ensure I didn't morph into "that guy who made a scene."

Throughout the night, I spent plenty of quality time with the boy and, to his credit, he was a well-behaved little gentleman. He even sat patiently while his mom danced and his dad did his best imitation of dancing.

All told, it was a fine evening, which made the next day even tougher to stomach.

I don't know how much fun I had Saturday night, but I do know this: as one's child grows, a harsh calculus begins to emerge. Specifically, a child's demands for attention and physical activity are inversely proportionate to a parent's ability to recover from a night of carousing.

Put simply, I'm getting older and the boy is getting better. Sunday proved to be a bitter crash course in coping with this reality

Naturally, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. My head was aching and my stomach was rolling and for some reason my brain wanted me awake for all of it. The next few hours moved slowly and then the boy was awake.

The boy, sitting in with the band.
He too got off to a slow start but, before long, he was feeling his oats and ready to get moving. This proved to be no problem initially as he was keeping himself busy.

Throughout the day, he demanded we play "Jump Time" — that's a game where I lift him off the bed or the couch and toss him into the air and catch him. I usually do this about 20 times and we count it off together. It's a bit taxing at the best of times but particularly so on Sunday.

Then we played a little bit of "Getchoo." That's the game where I yell, "Getch YOOOO!!! loudly and chase the boy. This one culminates in me tickling him and him giggling profusely.

We did a bit of these throughout the day and I was able to sprinkle in some time resting on a chair, trying to forget about my headache. All in all life was satisfactory, at least until Mrs. Blackwell decided to take off to the gym later in the afternoon.

It was then that the boy made his move. I can't say if it was intentional but, once his mom was gone, he hit the switch.

First we had to go to the basement. Once down there we had to play Getchoo. I ran to the far end of the basement and then I ran back to tickle him.

Through a loud, gurgling, giggle he asked, "UUHH-GAIN!!"

And so I ran to the far end of the basement and then I ran back to tickle him. And again, I ran to the far end of the basement and then I ran back to him to tickle him.

I don't know how many laps I made, but I can tell you it was sometime during the third one when the nausea re-emerged. Spurred on by foolish pride and a desire to never concede defeat, even in the face of crystal-clear reality, I insisted to myself that I could keep up. And so I resolved that each time the boy requested it, I'd attempt to meet his demand.

Perhaps sensing the challenge, the boy shifted into overdrive. On one of my return trips from the other side of the basement, he smiled so huge I swear it almost looked deranged. Then he yelled, "It's JUMP TIME!!!"
Ring Around the Rosie — on this occasion I had backup
from the boy's uncle. 

Now, I don't know if you've ever lifted 35 pounds over your head and thrown it in the air about 20 times but, for me, it's not easy.

You get to a point where it becomes a safety issue, your arms are rubber and you can't catch the kid anymore. After the third set of "Jump Times" I put the boy down and, told him I couldn't do it anymore.

"Daddy is done," I said, catching my breath.

But Daddy wasn't done.

You see, what I didn't know is that, instead of a little boy, Mrs. Blackwell are in fact raising a relentless, remorseless little playing machine who saved his most excruciating exercise for last. Not only that, he disguised it under a veil of harmlessness.

Ring around the Rosie.

We all know the game. You spin in a circle. Then you all fall down. Then you climb back to your feet and you do it again. And, if you're my son, you do it again and again and again and again and again.

And even when your father turns green and begs for any other game — even "Jump Time" — you keep requesting "Rosie."

And if you're me, you learn your lesson — and remember it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Promise Kept — the Baby Gender Not Revealed

Before we ever stepped foot in the hospital for our most recent baby checkup, my wife made me make a promise.

"Honey," she asked, ever so sweetly, "if you notice anything on the ultrasound, and you think you know the baby's sex, do me a favor and stuff an old, sweaty sock in your mouth. I don't want you ruining this."

"Yes dear," I dutifully replied, a single, solitary tear trickling from the corner of my eye.

The waiting room at the hospital. AKA Hell on Earth.
A well-appointed Hell with a water cooler and great
magazines, but Hell nonetheless. 
Fine. It didn't happen that way but it's completely accurate for me to say that Mrs. Blackwell wanted me to keep my big, fat mouth shut.

Her concern was not without merit.

The last time we got the sex of our child, we were in a darkened room illuminated by an ultrasound screen. Ultrasounds greatly resemble a Rorschach test but, miracle of all miracles, I was able to discern male anatomy from the otherwise indecipherable image.

So, I proclaimed, "It's a boy," and in the process angered Mrs. Blackwell something fierce. I didn't know I was supposed to wait, but I was.

This time, I resolved to do as I was asked and contain my impulses and excitement.

Strangely, it turns out Mrs. Blackwell wasn't exactly the picture of composure either.

Our appointment was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and the hospital is about a nine minute drive from our home. By 8:45, she was ready to jump in the car. I really, really don't like waiting rooms so, I was able to suppress her compulsion for a grand total of five minutes.

My distaste for waiting rooms be damned, we arrived ridiculously early for our 9:30 appointment which was great because Mrs. Blackwell had actually scheduled the appointment for 9:50.

In a cloud of euphoric anticipation her mind had moved up the appointment time. It's only 20 minutes difference, right? Well, when you've been waiting two months and you're this close to the prize, 20 minutes becomes a much bigger annoyance than merely the 1,200 seconds it amounts to.

Inside the exam room. The sign under the monitor says, "No
cell phones." But I secretly used mine to snap some pics.
Take that, hospital authorities!
And that was just beginning of our wait.

I thought we'd step into the examination room and the ultrasound tech would rev up her machine and tell us "Girl," or "Boy."

I thought wrong.

Once we got into the room our nurse informed us that the sex of the baby would be amongst the last pieces of information she'd share. Instead we were led through an infinite presentation of ultrasounds and three-dimensional images of the baby from every angle imaginable.

She started with the brain, heart and vital organs and moved on to look for common problems.

"Its heart looks strong. Its femur is there. Its arm bones are there. Oh, look! It moved its little hand. Its legs look long, like mom's. Its head looks huge, like dad's."

Matters got to the point where it seemed we were running out of body parts to examine — except for the one I was most interested in.

As we progressed, my patience teetered. So I diverted my thoughts back toward the moment Mrs. Blackwell and I learned she was pregnant.

Since that time, we'd both asked each other what we thought we were having. Invariably, we'd both say, "Boy." Somehow, some way, we just knew. (I guess when you're odds are 50/50 it's not a real stretch.)

Regardless, as the tech moved the wand across my wife's tummy and the ultrasound images rolled by in a haze of little black-and-white fingers, toes, arms and legs, I reminded myself that this baby could be a girl.
A note from my iPhone. I was so confident,
I stealthily wrote this, just so I could say
"I told you so," afterward. Confident —
and immature, and petty...the list goes on. 

Wouldn't that just be the topper? We were convinced it was going to be a boy and then, at the last moment, we were both proven wrong.

I fastforwarded through an entire life of raising a little princess, of having faux tea parties, of seeing her play softball, like her mom, of watching some scrawny 16-year-old kid come by to pick my daughter up for her first date and then I thought of giving her away on her wedding day.

Before I knew it, my faith in my intuition crumbled and I was convinced it was a girl. I just knew it.

Naturally, I could barely contain my excitement at this revelation and just as I was about to turn and tell Mrs. Blackwell, I remembered my promise. And, even though it was just a guess, I kept my trap shut.

A few more minutes passed and finally, after learning about body parts I'd never known existed, the nurse paused and asked, "Do you want to guess what it is?"

Being the Oak of a man that I am, I sat, waited and said nothing.

Naturally, Mrs. Blackwell, took a moment and, calm as can be, said, "Boy."

Naturally, the nurse, said "Yep," and I said, "Huh?"

As we left the doctor's office, we were both beaming. Happy, first and foremost, that our little bundle was healthy and, for my part, particularly pleased that I'd kept my big, fat mouth shut.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Baby Gender Pt. II — The Reveal

Hot on the heels of Father's Day, Mrs. Blackwell and I got the news we've been waiting for regarding our germinating little bundle of joy.

First, it's healthy. (I have to remind myself sometimes that that's the most important news.)

Second, it's a boy!!!

I am as thrilled to say it now as I was to first hear it. You might remember that I wrote a post entitled "Baby Gender Pt. I: If It's a Boy." The idea was to follow it up with a "Pt. II: If It's a Girl." But, as I'll detail below, things have been busy of late, and this information came fast.

Meh, all water under the bridge now. We're having a boy and we couldn't be happier.

Curtis' reaction to the big news. He's similarly enthused about
being told to get off the couch. 
It was particularly enjoyable to get the news so close to Father's Day.

It was even better that I was able to share the moment with my father, who's visiting along with my mom and younger brother.

My dad would be disappointed if I didn't mention that their Yellow Labrador Retriever Curtis, is joining them too. (So, here you are Curtis, enjoy your moment.)

They all live about 1,000 miles away and we don't get together as much as we'd like so, again, it was cool to have them here. This also marked the first time ever I shared Father's Day together with my dad and son.

Mrs. Blackwell has been out of town too, partaking in a six-day sojourn to exotic Arkansas for yet another one of her sexy vacations. She arrived home late at night and we turned around early the next morning for our doctor's appointment.

So great news abounds but, damn, life's been busy here.

And soon enough (sometime in October if you're into specifics) we'll add another boy to the Blackwell clan and it will get even busier.

In the midst of the current craziness Master Blackwell soldiers on, blissfully unaware of the impending arrival of his little brother.

For now, the biggest challenges in his life are his potty training, keeping track of his drum sticks and maintaining his collection of foam letters.

His world is one in which he wanders in and out of conversations and only occasionally pays attention to his surroundings, except to stay close to the bathroom. In this sense, he and my father are very much alike.

That said, the boy's world as he knows it is about to be fundamentally altered and though we explain to him that he's going to be a big brother, I'm not sure he understands the weight of this.

Pictured: Two happy parents and one boy.
Throughout his three plus years on this planet he's grown accustomed to being the center of attention. With his uncle and grandparents visiting, he's been getting a concentrated dose of this treatment.

Soon he'll be sharing this attention.

But the rewards of his sacrifice will be many and, as my wife is fond of saying, love doesn't get divided, it multiplies.

Until this new reality arrives, I intend to cherish the next few months. Master Blackwell has been a lot of fun lately.

Right now he loves inciting me to chase him by yelling "Wone play getch yooo?!?" (That's toddler slang for: "Father, do you want to play a game of 'Get You' wherein you will chase and I will run from you?"

He also regularly asks, "Wanna go on Daddy's shoulders?" and while his tone sounds like a question, it's very much a request. It's hokey I know but, walking with my son on my shoulders makes me feel taller. Then after about a half mile, it makes me feel older and shorter, which I probably am.

And it while it's probably equally hokey to say it, I'm happy to sacrifice some more of my height to have another little guy to put up there.

Yes folks, we're having a boy and we couldn't be happier.