Registry Time

After maternity shopping, there’s another big shopping day in the lives of any parent-to-be: the baby registry. The registry is a vital and sacred tradition in which you admit to your family and friends that, not only do you not own any of the furnishings necessary to take care of a child in a manner that wouldn’t seem out of place in the opening chapters of a Harry Potter novel, but you also would really, really like it if everybody else would just go ahead and purchase those items for you. Your friends and family, then, will download your list online, glance at it, and buy whatever they think you need instead.

I don’t want to give any free advertising to where we registered, as they aren’t actually paying us, but I can confirm that babies R totally them. I will say, however, that they won Erin over very quickly by giving her a goody bag containing another baby bottle (if you recall, this was a major selling point when she purchased some maternity clothes), as well as a bottle of water and — because we made the registry on Mother’s Day — a freshly-cut flower. She was tickled. She was over the moon. In fact, when we got in the car, she popped the flower in the bottle of water to keep it alive while we stopped to do our grocery shopping before we went home, then slapped my arm when I told her I thought it was adorable.

The actual procedure of the registry was very similar to when we registered for our wedding: they gave us a scanner gun and set us loose in the store to scan in items that we would really like it if other people would buy for us. The big difference this time, unlike when we did our wedding registry, is that Erin actually allowed me to do the scanning. For our wedding, she was so excited that she scanned virtually everything, occasionally asking me if I liked what she was scanning and usually even giving me time to reply before she rushed off to scan something else. This time around, though, it was totally different. This time she got so excited that she pointed at the things she wanted me to scan before she rushed off to point at something else.

Of course, I exaggerate a bit. Erin really does want me to be completely involved in the decision-making process, which she reminded me of after an hour and a half of me scanning in whatever she told me to scan in.

“I want you be a part of this!” she said. “Pick something out!”

“I promise you, sweetheart, if you pick out something I don’t like, I’ll tell you.”

“But I want you to be involved.”

“I am involved.”

“I want you to pick something!”

“When I see something I want to scan I’ll — oh wait, there’s a Superman onesie!”

Beep.

The truth is, I don’t think Erin always believes me when I tell her I agree with the choices she’s making. If I didn’t like the color of the humidifier we apparently need, I would have asked her to pick a different color. If I hated the stroller she picked out online before we even went to the store, I would have let her know. And in fact, I did pick out the octopus-and-whale-themed bedding set we went with — or at the very least, I told her it was my favorite out of the ones she picked out online before we left the house. At any rate, I was in no position to argue with any of her choices, if for no other reason than because while she was looking at baby bath towels, I was using the scanner gun as a microphone and lip synching to “My Girl” along with the in-store music. (I’ve already vowed to teach our little Guacamole all of my dance moves. Most kids should be so lucky.)

There honestly wasn’t a lot of division between us. There were, however, a few times where I had to convince her it was okay that we didn’t register for some item or other right away, but instead went home and did a little research before putting the item on the registry. The baby monitor, for example. Is an audio monitor enough, or do we need a video monitor? Is black-and-white acceptable, or does it need to be in color? Does it need to come with its own viewscreen, or can we set it up as an app on our phones? Where does America stand on the issue of Owl-shaped video cameras? Can we get Netflix on this thing? Important stuff.

Diapers were another thing to debate. Erin was quite insistent that we register for the right diapers. This shocked me. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know that you were allowed to register for items that are literally designed to fill with crap and then throw away, but there you go. And as I’m led to believe that babies go through diapers faster than I go through peanut butter M&Ms, I agreed that we should put approximately all of them on the registry. The question, though, was what size? I’m a big dude, but I don’t think I was a particularly large baby. Still, what if ours is?

‘“I don’t know what size diapers to register for,” Erin bemoaned.

“I don’t know either.”

“What if we get the eight-pound size and he’s too big?”

“Well, then we wouldn’t be able to use them.”

“How big were you when you were born?”

“I don’t remember, I was embarrassed to look at the scale.”

“I’m serious! What do we do?”

I thought about it. “Okay, look, they said that anything on the registry that’s unopened can be exchanged later, right?’

“Yeah.”

“So let’s just register for the eight-to-ten pound diapers. Then if, God forbid, he pops out too big for them, we can always return them and get the larger size, right?”

“Okay, I guess so.”

“Great.”

“What brand should we get?”

“Oh Jesus Christ.”

Anyway, registering is actually a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it for anybody who is pregnant with either a real or imaginary baby. And for our friends and family, the registry is there for anybody who wants to show how much they love us. Ignore the 15 packs of peanut butter M&Ms that I scanned in when we walked by the cash register.

You may have heard, Blake and Erin have a baby on the way, so he hopes you’ll allow him to remind you he’s got all these books and short stories for sale on Amazon, and suggest you follow his author’s page on Facebook.

Vendetta

Ben and Jerry
Is it really a pint? The answer will ASTOUND you!

“It isn’t a pint.”

There are places where this phrase could be a matter of serious concern. In a hospital blood bank. In a bar. On a football field, if the referee judging the kicker’s performance has an inexplicable accent. But for my wife, it became drastically important in the grocery store freezer section.

“It isn’t a pint!” she repeated, vehemently. This was the most aggressive I’ve ever heard Erin act towards a pair of gentlemen she usually considers friends: Ben and Jerry. They’re an obscure couple, I know, so let me explain. Ben and Jerry are two hippies who started an ice cream company modeled after a pair of characters in Billy Crystal’s classic motion picture City Slickers. They make a good product, I must admit, but they’re not usually my first choice for ice cream because we live in Louisiana. Here, Blue Bell Ice Cream is readily available, and Blue Bell Ice Cream is, in the words of Sir Richard Attenborough, “Way the crap better than that other stuff.” If you live in one of those places in the world where there is no Blue Bell, allow me to explain how good it is this way: in 2015, the company temporarily stopped production and ordered a line-wide recall when a Listeria outbreak was discovered in some of its products. The vast majority of us would have been willing to risk it.

But back to Ben and Jerry — among their ice cream products is something called “Pint Slices.” These are essentially ice cream patties in hard chocolate shells, similar to Klondike bars, but without a marketing campaign that suggests someone might murder a Rabbi, for instance, to obtain one. Ben and Jerry’s marketing instead suggests that the “pint slices” are ostensibly created by “slicing up” their “pints” and dipping them in the “chocolate” shell. Now a “normal” person would assume that this is just a way to market their novelty treat and not meant to be taken literally. A normal person would point out that, were the ice cream in the pints actually sliced up, the slices from the bottom would be smaller than those cut from the top, and yet the three “slices” in the box are all clearly the same diameter. A normal person would not make a big deal out of this. A normal person would just eat them.

My beloved Erin is not normal. She is pregnant.

“IT IS NOT A PINT,” she insisted. “Look, I’ll prove it! How much does a pint weigh?”

“A pint is a measure of volume, not weight,” I said, after which she gave me a look that would make any reasonable bystander assume I had suggested she stuff her maternity pants with chicken fingers because nobody at that buffet is going to search the pregnant lady and I didn’t have anything to bring to work for lunch tomorrow. (This is not a mistake I would make twice.)

“Fine,” she said. “I’m going to melt these and then melt a pint and then I’m going to send the pictures to Ben and Jerry.”

“Okay,” I said, because I’m not an idiot.

Here’s the thing, guys: She’s probably right. Technically. If you measure the ice cream content of the three slices, it probably doesn’t add up to the same ice cream content as your usual pint of ice cream. However, that doesn’t mean this level of outrage is rational. Javert didn’t have this kind of dedication to bringing down Jean Valjean. I’m writing a musical based on this. The Phantom of the Creamery. Soft openings in April 2019.

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter if she’s right or not. I’m going to just be grateful that what she herself refers to as her “pregnancy brain” has chosen this relatively harmless hill to die on, rather than joining a mob of pipeline protesters, demanding justice for the children of Thailand, or trying to bring back the McDLT. I’m not casting aspersions on any of those other causes. I’m just saying that if it came down to it and I had to defend her honor, I’m pretty sure I could take either Ben or Jerry.

McDLT AddIn the meantime, I’m just going to eat my slice in peace.

POSTSCRIPT: After Erin read this, she rather emphatically informed me that the McDLT was STUPID because there was NO LOGICAL REASON WHY THE CHEESE SHOULD BE ON THE COLD SIDE, and that THIS is a hill she IS willing to die on.

I’m sorry I said anything.

You may have heard, Blake and Erin have a baby on the way, so he hopes you’ll allow him to remind you he’s got all these books and short stories for sale on Amazon, and suggest you follow his author’s page on Facebook.

On bats, acceptance, and Adam West

get rid of a bombI have a complicated relationship with Adam West.

This is not to suggest I ever met the man, because I never did. Nor am I going to pretend to be greatly familiar with his body of work beyond the Batman TV series or other roles which were deliberately derivative or satirical of that series. I’m pretty sure the only acting role I ever saw him take where he wasn’t playing Batman, a Batman pastiche, or himself was on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I haven’t even read Burt Ward’s tell-all book about their time making that series, which would at least presumably offer a little more insight into who he was as a person. To me, and by no means to me alone, Adam West was simply Batman, full stop.

But it’s more complicated than that.

When I was a kid, like so many of us, I watched his Batman TV show. And as a child, I loved it. Yes, it was sometimes goofy and garish and sometimes the villain’s plots made absolutely no sense, but hey, it was still Batman. On TV.  This was in the 80s, remember, a time very much unlike today when there are a thousand comic book properties on television at any given time, and even more if you change the channel from the CW. It was great just to see Batman — or any superhero, for that matter — on TV in any form. It was pretty much all I required out of this show.

Then I made a tragic mistake, a mistake that so many of us make in our lives, a mistake that many of you have made, and that still others among you are probably going to make in the future.

I got older.

I was almost 12 when Michael Keaton’s Batman movie was released in 1989. When I saw that, it was a game-changer for little Blake. This was the Batman I wanted to see. This was the Batman I read about in comic books. He was dark. He was brutal. He made people fear him, and at that point that was the only Batman I wanted. It got worse when I read things like The Dark Knight Returns or Year One. Suddenly there was no room in my world for a light-hearted, silly. campy Batman.

Not only that, but I grew irrationally, unreasonably angry at Adam West and Burt Ward for several years for the way their portrayal of Batman and Robin had tainted the reputation of the character for so much of the world. When people who didn’t read comics, people who didn’t know any better, talked about Batman, they talked about the silly costumes and the goofy gadgets. Every time the news said anything at all about comic books, the headline was full of “POW!” and “BAM!” Not only was Batman being disrespected, but the entire art form of comic books was being dragged down and it was all Adam West’s fault.

I know. But bear with me, please.

Then after a few years of this, I did something wise. Something that some of you have hopefully done. Something that, unlike growing older, is by no means guaranteed for all people.

I got perspective.

It started with the works of Carl Barks and Don Rosa, rediscovering them in college. I saw the richness and depth of those stories, and I started to wonder why I had stopped reading them in the first place.

Oh yeah. Because they were Disney comics. And I, of course, was “too old” for such things.

I began to realize that just because something is appropriate for children does not mean that it is inherently without merit. Just because I liked something when I was younger did not prevent me from enjoying or appreciating it today. And so I re-embraced those things I loved — Disney and the Looney Tunes and the Muppets and more. And eventually, I went back and I gave Mr. West’s Batman another look.

To be fair, it’s still not my Batman anymore, but now I get that that’s okay. To be honest, it’s hard to define exactly which Batman is mine because there are so many different versions of him, and so many of them I enjoy. If I have to choose a single incarnation, on most days I’ll probably say my Batman was drawn by Jim Aparo and and written by Chuck Dixon. But that could change depending on which way the wind is blowing. There are so many excellent Batman creators out there, and so many great Batman performers, it seems absurd to limit myself to one. And what’s more, even those I don’t personally connect with, I can appreciate for their place in the mythology. Adam West may not have been my Batman, but I can appreciate the fact that he is Batman for so many people. I can appreciate that his Batman is entirely valid, just as much as Keaton, or Christian Bale, or Ben Affleck, or for that matter Will Arnett, and especially Kevin Conroy. All of their Batmen are as real as any other, and everybody is allowed to have as many Batmen as they want.

But that’s not just true of Batman, is it? How many people, over the years, have said that Lynda Carter was the one and only Wonder Woman? Up until last week, a lot more, probably. But as Gal Gadot has proven so beautifully, so effortlessly, there is absolutely room for others. Christopher Reeve was my Superman, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with George Reeves or Tom Welling or Dean Cain or Henry Cavill. There is room for these legendary characters to go beyond any one interpretation. There is room for everyone’s version, and somebody else having theirs doesn’t make yours bad. (This is not to say there are no bad versions of anything, of course, just that you need a more compelling reason than “It’s not the one I wanted” if you’re going to convince me that it’s bad.)

That was the most important lesson I think, that I learned from Adam West and Batman ‘66. There truly is room for everything.

Well, that, and that some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.

Ultrasound: No, honest, it’s not just a gray blob

Like most major events in life, having a baby comes with certain rites of passage: taking that first pregnancy test, buying the first baby clothes, the 432nd time you get up in the middle of the night to pee (even more for the mother), and so forth. Then, about halfway through this magical experience comes one of the big ones: the ultrasound.

This is not to suggest that they only do an ultrasound the one time. Erin’s doctor did one early on that he swore proved she was having a baby but that, for all I could tell, maybe just suggested she had swallowed a circus peanut whole. At 22 weeks, though, this was the big one, the one where you can start to make out body parts, organs, gender, and even — because we live in an age where having ice available in July is no longer the world’s greatest miracle — his head.

This is the plan, at least. A lot of it depends on the kid — how he’s positioned, where he’s curled up in his little Uterine Hotel Suite, whether he’s ready for the paparazzi to begin their non-stop assault of photography that will (for a first child) continue until the day when he does something that requires you to call the fire department, at which point, nothing is cute anymore.

Then there’s the other thing, the elephant in the room, the thing no parent-to-be wants to talk about but that all of us can’t help thinking about: what if something is wrong? What if the scan shows that our baby is in trouble, or won’t make it? I’ve had family and friends go through this, I’ve seen what it can to do a person, and after the year we’ve had, it was too terrible to contemplate. I didn’t say any of this out loud, of course. Erin was already nervous about the whole thing, and we have a strict rule about only one of us being allowed to freak out at a time, although frankly, it’s been her turn for a while now and I’m starting to get a little jealous.

Anyway, we got to the doctor’s office and the ultrasound technician slathered Erin’s belly with the blue ultrasound slime that is, of course, standard in these situations. She smeared it a bit, and placed the instrument against my wife’s skin. She began moving it around. And then we looked at the monitor on the wall, and there it was.

A blob.

A gray blob, to be precise. And while it was not substantially any different from a million other blobs I’ve seen in my lifetime, I could tell immediately that this one was cuter.

She moved the device a little, and we started to see the blob from different angles. Shapes appeared, and lighter and darker areas. The technician started to take pictures of the image and stamp labels on them from a drop-down menu, and I turned to my memory of high-school biology to try to fake comprehension of what was on the screen. “AORTA,” one image read, and I nodded and said, “Good, he’ll need one of those.” Another: “FOUR-CHAMBERED HEART,” to which I helpfully told Erin, “That is the recommended number.” I was just desperate to see something recognizable, but we’d already made plans to see Alien: Covenant the following evening, and when the technician pointed out what she claimed was my son’s spine, I couldn’t say for certain that we weren’t just watching a preview of the movie.

Eventually, she hit an angle where things looked a bit more baby-like. We saw his feet, which Erin declared were going to be big like his daddy’s. We saw an angle that confirmed the blood test that identified him as male was, indeed, correct. And then…

Then we had a profile image.

It wasn’t super-clear. It wasn’t like looking at a photograph. It wasn’t like it is in the movies.

But it was real.

20170518_144605We were looking at our son’s face for the first time.

Erin teared up. I squeezed her hand tighter. It was the most incredible moment since that day she first told me she had peed in one of our drinking cups. And then, as we stared at it, something else happened.

You’re going to think I’m crazy.

Then he lifted his arm and waved.

It was like, “Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad. See you in September.”

I know what you’re thinking. First-time parents, kid moves his arm, we saw what we wanted to see and it doesn’t actually mean anything. But here’s how I know you’re wrong: this is my kid. And pulling that sort of Michigan J. Frog “You can tell everybody but nobody will believe you” crap is exactly the sort of prank I find hysterical.

Kid has my sense of humor already.

After it was over, the tech printed out some of the images for us, including the profile, and we then waited for the doctor. This was the nerve-wracking part. What if he saw something we didn’t? What if the gray blob was missing an important blotch? What if it had an extra blotch that wasn’t supposed to be there? What if something was wrong with our baby?

Again, I didn’t say these things out loud. Erin’s turn.

But the doctor came in and said the only thing that could have mattered: “Everything looks good. Let’s schedule your next appointment in four weeks.”

And then we took our first baby picture and we went home.

You may have heard, Blake and Erin have a baby on the way, so he hopes you’ll allow him to remind you he’s got all these books and short stories for sale on Amazon, and suggest you follow his author’s page on Facebook.

Maternity Shopping: Way Less Painful Than a Kidney Stone

The day after we made our “official” Facebook announcement to the world that Erin was having a baby, she asked me to go maternity shopping with her. This was, surprisingly enough, not an arena in which I had a great deal of prior experience. The truth is, like menstrual cycles and getting out of a speeding ticket by unbuttoning our shirts, maternity shopping is something your average male will never have first-hand experience with. Still, I’ve never been the kind of guy who runs away when his wife needs to buy traditionally “girly” things, so I had no problem going along with her.

I was pleased to learn that shopping for maternity clothing really is no more painful than shopping for any other kind of clothes. In fact, I quickly fell into my usual role: waiting outside the fitting room as Erin tried on outfits, occasionally peeking out to ask my opinion on a shirt or jeans or pair of “capris” (“capris” is a French word meaning “fruit beverage in a foil pouch”), then returning me to the more familiar environments of talking to people about Superman on Facebook.

In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that all the models in the pictures on the wall were pregnant, I may not have even realized we weren’t in any other clothing store until the attendant asked me if I wanted to wait in the “daddy area,” indicating a small section with a few comfy-looking chairs pointed in the general direction of a television. This was next to what I assume was a “kiddie area,” which was an area surrounded by a short, padded wall with a few tables and some toys. She said I could sit in the daddy area and watch sports. I wanted to say I’d rather be in the kiddie area,” because there were Legos there, but she was a complete stranger so I elected to stick with Erin.

I did get slightly nervous, as the attendant spent what seemed to be an awful lot of time checking on Erin and bringing her different shirts and blouses (there is a difference between the two, gentlemen, but it can only be detected through the use of university-quality electron microscopes). This bothered me, as I don’t usually buy clothing in the type of store where attendants bring you clothing unbidden and point you towards waiting areas and offer you little bottles of water because “we need to keep that baby hydrated.” I usually buy my clothes in a store where there’s a legitimate chance that I could find a half-thawed chicken from the frozen food section that somebody dumped in the fitting room.

This woman was actually very helpful, though, bringing Erin several articles of clothing in different colors and patterns, locating some black shirts after Erin told her that’s what she has to wear to work, and suggesting a few pairs of pants that not only weren’t so long that Erin could fashion a denim tarp out of the excess length, but didn’t even conclude with her calling me a liar when I told her I thought she looked good in them.

As we checked out, the attendant signed us up for some club that will supposedly result in lots of coupons and gift cards for the sort of places that new parents will have to do their shopping, then gave us a goodie bag that left Erin twitterpated when she realized it included a baby bottle, because it was our first one and made her so happy that I’m slightly convinced she’ll try to have it bronzed when I’m not looking.

(“I’m not gonna have it bronzed, you asshole,” she said when she read this post.)

All in all, I have to admit I was pretty impressed with the maternity store. They seemed to do good work there, which is important in a retail environment, because so much of their company’s livelihood depends on repeat business. Unlike most customer service jobs, of course, this is one of the only ones where you have to hope your customers are out there having enough sex to have to come back again.

Don’t forget to follow my Facebook page at Facebook.com/BlakeMPetit.

Beezwax, None Of Yours

About a month ago, Erin and I learned the gender of our upcoming little bundle of joy. I wrote what you’re about to read just before we found out what we were having. Turns out it’s a baby. Erin was hoping for a kitten.


Erin and I were in a long-distance relationship for quite some time before we got married. She’s from outside of Pittsburgh, I’m from outside of New Orleans, and we met online. Not through a dating website, I never would have signed up for one of those, but on a message board for Stephen King fans. I’ve always said it was, for me, the online equivalent of picking up a girl in a bookstore. That’s where I always had the most game anyway.

(Erin: You never had any game! Me: Relatively.)

But as with any couple, as time went on we started to get plagued by rather invasive questions from friends and family who didn’t quite comprehend that just because we were linked on Facebook didn’t give them the right to pry in our relationship “When is one of you moving? How long are you going to do this? When are you getting married?” That last question, I don’t mind telling you, was the most annoying, especially when it came from someone who’d been living with her partner for 20 years without so much as the slightest tinkle of a wedding bell. I’m not judging you if you choose to live that way, I’m just saying you have sacrificed your “When are you getting married?” privileges for life.

We did get married, of course, but we were also smart enough to know that this wouldn’t stop the questions, just change their target. “Are you going to have kids?” Or, even worse, “When are you going to have kids?” The first question is rude because it’s none of your business. The second is rude because it presumes we’ve already made a decision about this important issue that corresponds with your own and, furthermore, because it’s none of your business. I know lots of couples who don’t have children, many of my best friends, people I would trust with my life, people who I would trust to help me move a Lego Millenium Falcon without dropping it, but I have never asked any of them any of those questions.

That’s not to say I’ve never discussed the issue with them. I have. But the discussion came because we’re close friends and one of us made the decision to share the information with the other unsolicited, not because the other shined a light in their eyes and started an interrogation. There are a million reasons someone may not have children. Maybe they don’t want any. Maybe they’re afraid to. Maybe there are marital problems beneath the surface or maybe one or the other of them is physically incapable of having kids. None of these issues are the sort of thing you want to discuss with someone casually, and therefore the only way you can ask this question without running the risk of being MTV reality show-level intrusive is if you already know the answer.

Since Erin is pregnant, these questions are no longer being asked, but I was ready for the next stupid line of invasiveness to start. I thought, however, that the next insensitive thing we’d be subjected to would be when (or if) we would have baby #2.

I was wrong.

FullSizeRAs I write this, my sister has an envelope in her possession from Erin’s doctor. In that envelope is a piece of paper, upon which is written our baby’s gender. At least, I’m assuming the baby’s gender is written on the paper, I haven’t actually looked at it. Heather, my sister, is making us a “reveal cake,” which I think is a fun and practical way to learn this information: you still get that big “surprise” moment, but you get it early enough to start buying clothes, planning how you’re going to decorate, and allow people on Tumblr to call you worse than Hitler because you’re recognizing the fact that boys and girls are different from each other.

For those people who don’t feel that way, however, we’ve seen a small debate break out over whether the baby will be a boy or a girl. I can honestly say I don’t care — it’s not just bullshit when someone says they only want a healthy child, no matter what your Great Aunt Myrtle says. But evidently, a lot of other people have uncomfortably strong opinions about what they’re hoping for. Honestly, if you can figure out the proper way to finish this conversation, let me know:

“We’re going to find out the gender on Saturday.”

“Ooooh, I hope it’s a girl!”

How the hell am I supposed to respond to that? Wait to see if the cake is blue and then give this person my apologies?

I honestly don’t mind people guessing if it’s a boy or girl, even if some of their methods are pretty ridiculous. (“Let’s see, Erin was born in June, the ambient humidity is approximately 47 percent, Rogue One is number one at the box office, and in Crabapple, Georgia, Ella Mae Stapleton’s French Poodle urinated on a pine tree. It’s clearly a girl.”) But when people actually start rooting for one gender or another, that’s when things get messed up. Of all of the “none of your business” things that people have thrown at us since Erin and I first started dating, this is the one that has most tempted me to whip out a “beezwax” on them.

We’ll be fine either way. The only reason we even want to know is to get ready. And by that, I mean whether I should get a Superman or a Wonder Woman onesie.

I know the questions won’t stop even after the reveal, so let me close with this: I know, no matter what we have, what the next question will be. “So, now that you’ve got a boy, when are you gonna try for a girl?” (Or vice versa.)

Let me just say, for whoever asks that question first, I will not be legally or medically responsible for having Erin’s foot surgically removed from your ass.

FB_IMG_1491094612626POSTSCRIPT: The gender reveal cake, which was awesome, informed us that we’re having a little boy. We’re thrilled — not because we were hoping for one or the other, but just because now we can really get started buying clothes and decorations and whatnot.

Yes, we have specifically purchased things that say things like “Boy, oh boy” or — horrors — are blue. No, we don’t consider this child abuse. Yes, we know some of you do. No, we don’t care.

Don’t forget to follow my Facebook page at Facebook.com/BlakeMPetit.

Free Comic Book Day 2017

fcbdIt’s almost one of my favorite days of the year, guys! On the first Saturday in May, comic shops across America will be celebrating Free Comic Book Day! Once a year, the comic shops, distributors, and publishers provide cost-free comics to anyone who pops in! For a list of this year’s comics, as well as to find a participating store near you, just head over to the Free Comic Book Day website.

But if you happen to be in the New Orleans area, may I make a suggestion as to where to celebrate? As I’ve been doing for several years now, I’m going to be at BSI Comics in on Severn Avenue in Metairie. The best shops, you see, have taken Free Comic Book Day from a single table of freebies like it was for the first few years, and blown it up into a full-blown mini-convention! Local writers and artists, costume contests, prizes, major sales on comics, graphic novels, toys, and other paraphernalia! Hell, this year BSI is even going to host Jason Carter, aka Marcus Cole from one of my favorite TV shows of all time, Babylon 5!

I’ll be there all day with copies of my books for sale ($10 each or all five for $40). Erin will be with me, we’ll try to record a podcast from the store as we’ve done many times, and we’re going to have a blast. We’d love to see you.

And wherever you go, remember, the comics are free for you, but not for the store. They’re made available for a reduced price, but every one of your freebies costs the shop a little money. So show your gratitude — while you’re there, do a little shopping. Find a new graphic novel to try. Get a t-shirt. Do you watch The Walking Dead? Psyched for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or Wonder Woman? Are you currently wearing a Yoda t-shirt and posting “May the Fourth Be With You” memes all over Facebook? Then there’s going to be something for you at any shop that’s participating. Find the store nearest you, go out, and have a great time.

Traveling while pregnant

Erin, unlike me, is from Pittsburgh — a lovely place, but I tend to agree with Tennessee Williams when he said “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” (I’ve never been to Cleveland, for the record, so if you have a problem with that, take it up with Tennessee Williams.) Anyway, a couple of times a year, we try to go back to the glorious Allegheny Mountains to spend time with her family and friends. This time, of course, would be slightly different. This would be the first time Erin traveled while pregnant.

If you’re not sure why this is a big deal, I’m going to assume you’ve never traveled with (or as) a pregnant woman. It’s not that she had to go through any major or unusual preparations, it’s just that the physical state of being pregnant — I have been informed, frequently — is tremendously uncomfortable. Something else that is tremendously uncomfortable? Air travel. Combining the two of them… well, let’s just say it ain’t like getting peanut butter in my chocolate or chocolate in my peanut butter.

It’s also worth noting that Erin — the love of my life, the mother of my child, the Tito in my Jackson Five — has been getting a teeny bit paranoid as her pregnancy progresses.

“Can I go through the X-Ray machine?” She asked me the day before our flight.

“Baby, you told your doctor we were taking the trip. He knows we’re flying. If there was a problem, he would have said something. Also, there would be signs all over the X-Rays that said, ‘Hey pregnant ladies! Don’t do this!’”

Admittedly, I’m probably giving the TSA a little too much credit for having concern for its passengers, but I was trying to make Erin feel better.

But to my shock, the actual flight out was surprisingly uneventful. No delayed flights, no lost luggage, and we only encountered two rhyming demons during our layover in Atlanta. In fact, as we boarded the plane for the last leg of our journey, we sat down next to a young mother traveling with a little girl of maybe eight months old. When the girl reached out and yanked on Erin’s sweater her mother started to apologize, but Erin just said, “No problem, we have one coming in September.” All of a sudden, they were best friends, and the flight between Atlanta and Pittsburgh was split pretty much fifty-fifty between Mommy Talk and naps, which is something new mothers, impending mothers, and eight-month-old girls all have in common. Occasionally the little one reached out and smacked Erin’s belly while they slept, but we just chalked it up to her greeting our son in baby language, as demonstrated in the documentary motion picture Look Who’s Talking.

One thing we didn’t count on, however, was that air travel would somehow activate Erin’s “Pregnancy Brain.” This is a very real phenomenon, as proven by that esteemed scientist Professor Every Woman I Know Who Has Ever Had a Baby, in which pregnancy can cause sporadic and unpredictable lapses in memory, especially when it’s her turn to wash the dishes. We went on this trip when Erin was 18 weeks pregnant, and until then it hadn’t really been a big issue. Once the wheels left the ground, though, her memory went with them. She began forgetting everything: schedules, dates, which order Batman’s Robins went in, and other vitally important things. At one point we were going to visit her brother and she zipped right past the turn to go to his house. Another time she was reading a sign that completely consumed her attention until the third time I shouted “IT’S RED! THE LIGHT IS RED!” at which point it turned green and she cruised through the intersection and declared herself the victor.

I’ll probably be doing most of the driving until September.

One thing we did expect, however, were hand-me-downs. This is a time-honored tradition, something that has been happening since the dawn of mankind. In fact, Biblical Scholars now believe that Cain’s real motivation in that whole unpleasant business was that Adam gave Abel his favorite fig leaf. Sure enough, friends and family loaded us down with clothes, bottles, and other infant paraphernalia, with the promise of more to come. That promise is much appreciated, especially since we could barely fit all of the stuff they gave us into our suitcases. Her friend Karen, for example, handed over a sizeable bag of baby clothes, many of which were intended to indelibly brand my son as a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was okay with this, of course, because I know that all of my New Orleans people will be loading our little Guacamole down with Saints gear soon enough and because it wasn’t the Falcons or the Patriots, as I would rather just drop a gold chain around his neck and hose him down with Axe body spray and call it a day.

Her brother and his wife also gave us a sort of infant sleeping pad, something they said helped keep their two littlest in place in their early months. This was a nice, comfy-looking little device that I’m sure will make our child wonderfully comfortable despite the fact that there’s simply no way to fit it into a standard-size suitcase. We had to dismantle it and then place one of the support bars in each of our suitcases.

As it turned out, this would not be the only thing to get us on a government watchlist at the airport. The other thing we came away from this trip with? Books. Lots of books. Erin and I are both bookworms, and while I suppose it’s theoretically possible that our child will not enjoy the love of reading, it’s going to be because he spends his life surrounded by so many examples of the written word that he’s going to want to live in a biosphere at the bottom of the ocean just to be in an environment moist enough that paper is impractical.

We stopped by a few stores, got a few gifts, and came away with a fairly sizable addition to our already-growing baby book library. And, if we’re going to be honest here, Daddy also spent a little time in the dollar-or-less bins at a well-known Pittsburgh comic book store, because there are still a few issues of Quasar he was missing. Like most people, I believe in packing the most important items in my carry-on when traveling, using the theory that if anybody is gonna lose my most prized possessions, it’s gonna be me. In this case, that meant my carry-on was loaded down with enough books to outweigh my actual checked bag and to get flagged by airport security at the X-Ray because of the dense matter showing up on their scanners. I was eventually allowed to pass, but not until after the friendly TSA agent opened up every board book we had purchased and examined them carefully, apparently because there was a chance that we had secreted an explosive device somewhere in The Monster at the End of This Book.

The way home was less pleasant than the way to Pittsburgh, not only because of the much heavier traveling bag, but because on the return flight we were seated in front of two total strangers who somehow spent the three hours they were united by Southwest Airlines learning one another’s life story, the history of Ireland, and the length and severity of the cancer treatments inflicted upon one of their family members or both of their kittens — I was trying my damndest not to pay attention, mostly failing.

“This is the last time I’m flying pregnant,” Erin said to me, unable to get comfortable in an airline-allotted space that clearly was not designed for two human beings occupying one body, right after St. Patrick drove the snakes away.

“I hope so,” I said.

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Two Pregnancy Tests, One Cup…

The second in my ongoing series about Erin and I slowly marching towards parenthood. This one, I promise, will be way less serious than the first one. I wrote this as soon as we got home from dinner on the night it happened, wanting to record this gem of a conversation while it was still fresh in my mind.


When Erin was nine weeks pregnant, we stopped for dinner at Atomic Burger. Yeah, I know, but you need to understand — this place makes milkshakes. Delicious, epic milkshakes frozen with liquid nitrogen. It’s food and science. And most germane to this story, in the run-up to Mardi Gras, they were offering a King Cake Milkshake in what turned out to be a collectible, color-changing cup.

“Are we going to have to get rid of some of our cups after Mardi Gras?” Erin asked. I should explain here for those of you who weren’t fortunate enough to be born in Louisiana — even though we got a set of glassware as a wedding gift, most of our everyday beverages are consumed from what my mother used to call our “fine China”: free cups tossed from Mardi Gras floats, collector’s cups from restaurants and gas stations, and a cup handed out by then-Lieutenant Governor candidate Billy Nungesser at a jambalaya cook-off. You know. Fancy stuff. And after Mardi Gras is over, we usually get a new influx of drinking glasses.

“I don’t know,” I said. “There’s nothing wrong with any of our cups.”

“I guess I could get rid of the one I peed in,” she said.

“Sure,” I said, followed about five seconds later by, “Wait, what?”

“The cup I peed in when I took the first pregnancy test,” she said.

“Wait, you peed in one of our cups?”

“Yes.”

“One of the ones I drink out of?”

“Yeah, I told you about that.”

“No you didn’t!”

“I did!”

“Was it the same night you told me you were pregnant?”

“Yes!”

“Well do you think I was paying attention to that part?

As this began to sink in, I started to mentally inventory our drinkware. Which one was it? Was it one I used often? Was it one I used today?

“The directions said you could just pee right on the test itself, but I was afraid I’d mess it up,” she said.

“How do you mess up peeing on something?” I asked.

“You’re wondering which cup it is, aren’t you?”

“YES!”

“Do you want me to tell you?”

“I don’t know! I can’t tell if it’s worse knowing or not knowing at this point!’

“Well it’s clean. It’s been cleaned. I put it right in the dishwasher and I left it in there for another cycle, so it’s been washed at least three times.”

“Three?” I may be an English teacher, but I’m capable of at least this much math. “That’s only two.”

“Well… I washed it again.”

“When?”

“After I saw it in the sink.”

I felt my individual skin cells begin arguing over which direction they should crawl in. “In the sink?” I said “How do you think it got there?”

She sighed. “We got it for free.”

All of our cups are free!” I said, trying to not alert the rest of the Atomic Burger patrons to my sudden distress. “We got them all from Mardi Gras parades and Billy Nungesser!”

As I said the name of our elected official, Erin suddenly turned red.

“Wait, was that it? Is it Billy?”

She said nothing.

“Is it Billy Nungesser?”

Her face turned purple.”

“Is it Billy Nungesser?”

Her silence was finally broken as she doubled over in peals of laughter. As she sat there, giggling, potentially choking on her hamburger, I thought of the cup and tried to remember the last time I’d used it: water? Juice? Tea? What else had been in that beverage receptacle?

“Is it the Billy Nungesser cup?” I asked one last time.

She finally managed to collect herself and stop laughing, then wiped tears away from her cheeks with a napkin.

“He knew before you did,” she said.

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Tornado

Not long after Erin told me she was pregnant, I started writing little pieces about our adventures in impending parenthood. Obviously, I haven’t posted any of them online before, but now that we’ve announced to the world, I’m ready to start sharing. Most of them are silly stories or funny observations. The first one I wrote, however, is somewhat more serious, for reasons that I think will be clear. Most of the time I write something, I tweak and edit it right up until it’s posted, but I wrote this two months ago, and I haven’t changed a word.


When you lose something or somebody important to you, even once the initial stages of grief have passed, there’s a period of flux in your emotions. If you catch yourself laughing or having fun or generally being happy, you feel strange. It’s illogical, of course, there’s no reason to feel bad about it, but part of you does anyway. That strangeness is amplified by how great the loss is and how wonderful the good moment is.

Erin found out she was pregnant ten days after my mother died. Five days after her burial. Two days after I went back to work. I was already a confused mix of emotions, and as incredible as this was, it just threw things into even more of a tizzy. You’re already sad because of what you’ve lost, but now you’re happy for what you’re going to gain. And then you feel guilty for being happy, because you’re supposed to be sad, and you still ARE sad, but now you’re happy and guilty too. And then you feel ridiculous because you know there’s no reason to feel guilty and because you know Mom would have been thrilled about this. Then you feel sad all over again when it hits you that this child is never going to know their grandmother — my mother is going to be stories and pictures to him or her. It’s like you’ve lost Mom all over again and it breaks you, then you remember that you’re going to be a father and you don’t have the luxury of being broken right now, and then you remember that you’re going to be a father and you’re happy all over again, even if you’re nervous that you won’t live up to the wonderful father you have.

This is, of course, in addition to the traditional nervousness and anxiety that a person feels when they discover they’re going to become a parent, compounded with the above-average nervousness and anxiety I feel on a standard basis, which is something I inherited from my mother, which just makes me miss her all over again.

I’ve been in a tornado of emotion, is what I’m getting at.

-Jan. 27