Friday, April 24, 2015

She's Pregnant — After That, Who Knows?

Lately, Master Blackwell has taken to throwing tantrums that are largely self-inspired.

That is to say, Mrs. Blackwell or myself might suggest something like, "Hey buddy, would you like strawberries?"

He will say, "No I don't want strawberries, anymore," (pronounced "any-more-eeee"). "Anymore" is the word he tacks onto most of his replies now because, like any ruthless dictator, my boy deals only in absolutes.

For our part, Mrs. Blackwell and I will say, "OK" and then proceed with life.
This pic was taken exactly three years ago this week. It was
a much, simpler, easier time — for me. Looks like life might
have been a bit more challenging for Mrs. Blackwell.

The boy on the other hand, will stop and cry to the heavens that he doesn't want strawberries, or toast, or milk, or a trip to the park, or whatever we've proposed.

It doesn't matter if we repeat that he doesn't have to eat anything or go anywhere, it was just a suggestion — just his parents trying to be nice.

This is to no avail.

Engaging him on this level (that would be the level of a rational human being) serves only to fuel the fire. The crying often just gets worse, as if someone is set to pry his little mouth open while another person force feeds gobs of berries down his gullet.

I'll admit that, after about 60 seconds of his blaring and wailing, the thought has crossed my mind.

Anyhoo, it was in the midst of one of these fits, as he was contorting, flailing and squealing on the floor at a Home Depot if I'm not mistaken, that I thought to myself, "You know... what we really need is another one of these things."

So, because it's easy, because I've got parenting figured out and because the physical, financial, psychological and overall existential consequences are, really, not that profound, we've decided to have another kid.

Which is to say, we made that decision a while ago — a little more than 12 weeks ago to be more accurate.

Moving forward, there's all kinds of protocol to be observed and, since I've done this exactly once before, I know it inside and out and am thoroughly prepared to provide reliable commentary.

With regard to that protocol, I'll start with the first decision a couple makes after getting pregnant: when do you tell people?

Doctors and conventional wisdom suggest the end of the first trimester, or around the 10-12 week mark, is a safe time. At least that's what I thought until walking out the door to write this blog.

It was then that Mrs. Blackwell stopped me in the doorway to tell me about feedback she got from a "mommy message board" suggesting folks wait 15 weeks. So, because some folks have anointed themselves a higher authority on this matter, this is something we should suddenly question?

Who wouldn't want another one
of these?
To all these people I'd like to say, I'm sure you're well intentioned but please, stop — you're scaring the other moms. No matter what little tidbit of anecdotal evidence you might have stumbled upon, it doesn't trump years upon years of, you know, medical fact.

I know this.

All that other stuff I wrote above? Yeah, I don't know anything about any of that.

But I know this.

I know that last time Mrs. Blackwell was pregnant, we went through some pretty crazy stuff (have a look through the archives here for a more complete picture). Three years later, I feel comfortable saying that ours was as crazy a pregnancy as I've ever heard of.

Like then, I remain in touch with what a bumbling human being I am and that my sole saving grace in this world (outside of my incredibly durable skull) is that I know there's much I don't know.

So far this pregnancy has been typical. We've got one healthy little baby; Mrs. Blackwell says it's as big as a lime now.

Just like last time, we'll listen to and rely heavily upon the experts, the guys and gals who spent eight-plus years of their lives preparing to do their job.

With that in mind and, based upon the accumulation of years of medical evidence, including one generic Wallgreen's pregnancy test, and with the OK of doctors everywhere, I can say: "Mrs. Blackwell is pregnant."

I know this.

After that, your guess is as good as mine.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Happy Birthday Dear Mommy?

And now, a birthday story.

The cake was finished. Two layers. Lemon. Just the way I like it.

Lemon icing and in a fit of gastronomic inspiration, Mrs. Blackwell used lemon pudding instead of icing in between layers. I'd never tried this particular arrangement and was very much looking forward to indulging.

So, the cake sat on our kitchen counter, its icing warming, settling and cooling in an even layer across that wonderful citrusy surface.

The boy playing with a local band at the Farmer's Market.
The drummer gave him a stick so he could tap away while
they played. Pretty cool guy. Pretty perfect day — so far. 
Not far away, Mrs. Blackwell and I sat watching a hockey game, because when it's your birthday your spouse is obliged to tolerate anything.

We'd had an excellent day.

Our morning began with a tour of downtown Madison as we made our way through the biggest farmers market in North America. Later, I enjoyed a beer on the sunny shores of Lake Monona while Mrs. Blackwell and the boy enjoyed ice cream.

After that, we headed home where I did what any self-respecting dad loves to do best — grill. Mrs. Blackwell joined me outside as the boy took an afternoon nap. The sun shined. The meat cooked and the beer was cold.

With lunch done, we headed inside. Mrs. Blackwell joined me for a bit before heading to the kitchen to make the cake.

Later, the boy was up, the sun was setting and we were sitting. The boy meandered between the living room and the kitchen, making sure his evolving cast of plush toys was with him every step of the way.

Aside from the background hum of yet another hockey game and the occasional remark between Mrs. Blackwell and I, the house was quiet.

Then it happened.

The bloody footprint. 
The silence was broken as a plate landed on the floor. There's no other sound like it so we both knew immediately what it was.

Strangely, the sound of the impact was not accompanied by shattering.

We looked at each other. The boy was not in the room. I popped up and bolted toward the kitchen and what I found was absolutely perfect.

The cake was upside down on the floor. The plate hadn't shattered because it'd had two layers of cake, another layer of pudding and all kinds of icing in between to cushion its fall.

It was face down, its icing stuck to the floor, just a mangled mess and, in its own way, worthy of sympathy — a once beautiful testament to the unparalleled synergy of fruit and sugar, gone.

Nearby the boy stood in his white T-shirt and orange, motorcycle PJ bottoms, looking the picture of innocence. He was clean.

He was clean, except for his hands, upon which he was now wearing what I can only describe as cake gloves. On the front and back of both hands, from his wrist to the tip of each and every finger was cake and icing.

Somehow, some way, he'd gotten on his tippiest of tippy toes and managed to reach it. But, instead of grabbing the plate, he'd gone right for the cake. Thanks to the sticky, sugary icing, the plate was merely along for the ride.

But his ambition outstripped his capability. Once he slid it off the counter, he'd been unable to support its weight and down it all went.

My eyes captured this scene in a split second and I gasped loudly. The horror. The sheer and utter horror.

My reaction scared the boy, his eyes widened and he hopped back. I don't think he'd ever seen me recoil so violently. Then perspective kicked in.

His reaction to me let me know that my reaction needed to be cooler. I quickly shifted gears, crouched and let Master Blackwell know he was alright, everything was alright and he didn't need to be scared.

The horror. The horror. The horror
Well, that message didn't take long to be absorbed. In no time the boy was all smiles as Mrs. Blackwell and I went about the chore of cleaning him and the floor —
and trying to salvage the cake. (We were able to put together three superb servings so, it was enjoyed.)

As I peeled this mangled lemon monster off the hardwood, Master Blackwell stood inches away, his head bowed, staring at the mess before him.

Then, unprompted, he began singing.

"Haaaa-py birrrthday tooo you. Haaaa-py birrrthday tooo you."

It was subdued, a tad forlorn and really he could have just as easily been singing 'Danny Boy' while watching a casket get lowered. It was perfect.

He continued.

"Haaaa-py birrrthday deeewuh Mommmeee. Haaaa-py birrrthday tooo you."

Happy birthday dear mommy?

Like I said, it was perfect.

Friday, April 17, 2015

In the Nick of Time, I've Figured Out Life

On the matter of aging, my mother has made her thoughts abundantly clear for years now.

"It's terrible," she'll say. "You feel young, but your body doesn't."

"But, there's some great things about it too," she'll always add.

The boy's birthday is coming up in a couple weeks but, before then, I've got another birthday staring me down. Now being on the downside of my mid-30s, introspection is inevitable.

But rather than opine on the drawbacks of getting older, I'm opting to — like Mom — stay positive. Besides, I've still got a few years until 40 and, as we all know, that's when you're old.

The single biggest positive of growing older that I've identified is the accumulation of wisdom, or knowledge gained through experience or the experiences of others.

As best as I can tell, a large part of wisdom is merely determining what to care about and what not to care about.

Coming soon to a grocery store near you.
With that in mind, I present a list of things I've learned to no longer care about:

My Appearance
When I was younger I used to make sure that I was always presentable in public, that I was properly attired, not malodorous and, in general, a calm fellow. When I became a dad, this went out the window. Time is at a premium and one doesn't always have a moment to primp and compose. I'm still the relaxed guy wearing blue jeans and T shirt, buying a six-pack of beer on a Friday night. But I'm also the guy you might see on a Tuesday night, frantically wandering the aisles of the grocery store in his bathrobe and a winter cap, muttering to himself about why we didn't "buy more damn diapers to begin with."

The Opinions of Strangers
And when I'm wandering the aisles of this hypothetical grocery store looking for diapers, there's inevitably people there. When I was younger the mere thought of this frenzied trek while wearing the uniform of the certifiably disturbed, would have been mortifying. No longer. Now I know that most strangers aren't bothering to notice me, no matter how frightening my appearance and, strangers are people who (with any luck) I won't ever see again.

The Opinions of Friends
When I was in high school I had a big circle of friends. There were more than a dozen of us who palled around. For some reason, I concerned myself with making sure each and every one of my friends, "liked" me. Talk about misplaced effort. As I got older, the big circle got much smaller and now, the people who I call "friends" do like me and it's not work. Friends know that you were just joking. They know when to give you a break and they know when to slap some sense into you. In short, friends aren't work. They're like family. They're complete pains who love you, even when you're a complete pain.

And because we are all works in progress and no one — except my wife — has achieved perfection, here are some things I need to care less about as I make the final turn and enter the stretch run toward 40.

First it was hockey. I've loved the Toronto Maple Leafs since I was 11 years old. Sure, they might hate me and all of their fans but, like a beaten dog, I keep coming back to them year after year. Next, I went to the University of North Carolina. It has many wonderful attributes but few that I enjoy more than the five students they put on a basketball court about 40 times a year. When I think about how much emotionally invest in UNC basketball, it makes me question myself on a fundamental level. Finally, I never much bothered with the NFL but fantasy football changed all that and moving to Wisconsin, where the Packers reign supreme, cemented it.

At $9 a bottle, it's pricey. And, sometimes, it's even worth it.
Add all this up and it's clear my calendar is full with a whole lot of nothing. I acknowledge this. But despite this sad reality, later tonight when the boy is sleeping and Mrs. Blackwell is dozing off, my TV will quietly be switched to the hockey playoffs. Sports has a role in life but, if sports was beer, my intervention would have been staged long ago.

I've checked with the experts and no interventions are necessary with this one. But, somewhere along the line I decided I genuinely enjoy the taste of beer, not just the glorious effects. This can be an expensive hobby. Just as important, "genuine love of the taste of beer" by no means reduces those aforementioned "glorious effects."

As a consequence, at least once every couple months, it leads to me making spur-of-the-moment plans that I frequently don't follow through on. Please see the entry above about "friends" because it fits in here perfectly.

I need more of it. Period. I'm hoping that this comes with age but, whewh, boy. Just like sports and beer, it's further proof that identifying a problem is completely different than fixing it.

It would be great if the boy was able to gain some of this knowledge via my experiences but I'm not betting on it. After all, isn't one of life's great frustrations watching others make mistakes we've made and being unable to prevent it from happening?

For now, I'm not worried about it. Given the current rate of my evolution, I'm sure I'll have all of this figured out by the time I'm 40. And until then, my first order of business is working on my propensity for setting unrealistic expectations.