All You Need is Love (and a Webcam)

Hi.

It’s been a long time.

As I rode the Metro to work two weeks ago, I jotted down a list of all the blog posts I wanted to write over the next ten days.

How many did I write?

Zero.

Why?

Because the last two weeks have been really hard.

No, not “deployed overseas and fighting in a war” or “suffering from a chronic illness” kind of hard, but a challenge nonetheless.

I’ve been working an insane amount. I’m tired. I miss seeing my family. The kids have also decided that sleeping for more than an hour straight at night is boring. Austin woke up 11 times between 8pm and 7am on Wednesday night. Finally, after nearly five glorious months of kicking it with our kids each day, Amanda went back to work.

All You Need is Love (and a Webcam)

It had been quite the emotional buildup leading up to that moment. She wanted to go back to work, and interact with human beings who don’t pee on themselves all day, but she also wanted to stay home with the kids. As the “first day” creeped closer and closer, we both wanted to quit our jobs, scoop up our kids, hug them, and then never leave the house for the next eighteen years.

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As millions of parents have experienced, it is really hard to leave your kids with someone else and go back to work. We questioned whether we were making the right decision. We then questioned it again and again and again.

We spent countless hours trying to figure out childcare options. That’s always a really tough and anxiety-filled decision to make. Well, it’s an even more complicated issue with twins. Day care for two is all kinds of expensive in the DC area. Some places hit four figures. A week. We looked into stay-at-home daycares and nanny shares. Those options are more “reasonable,” but no one was willing to accept two infants. Plus, as a teacher, Amanda has off for approximately three months a year. A lot of daycare options would still make us pay for those months she wasn’t working. That’s a clown policy, bro.

We finally found a lady who would come to our house and watch the kids each day. I refuse to use the word “nanny” because it is way too pretentious for a thug like me. She’d charge less than the ratchet daycare down the street, the kids could stay at home (less sicknesses for them and “more” sleep for us), and she was a mother of twins so we believed she could handle our dynamic duo.

All You Need is Love (and a Webcam) 3

Despite feeling relatively good about the whole situation, we were still devastated by the idea of leaving our beloved kids with someone else. We finally had our breakdown moment around 11pm the night before Amanda went back to work. Surprisingly, I lost it first. I was folding laundry and came across some “old” onesies that the kids have outgrown. I quickly and begrudingly realized how quickly these priceless memories are passing. I tried to compose myself as I went downstairs. That lasted for about four seconds.

We cried.

And then we started cleaning again, because, wow, it was midnight, the non-nanny would be here in eight hours, and our house looked like a hurricane blew through the joint.

The next morning, both of us went to work. There is nothing in this world we love more than those kids. We left them behind.

But again, we felt pretty good about our non-nanny? Everything would be okay, right?

Wrong.

We had to fire her on the third day.

She forgot that we have a webcam in our house.

This story is not something I celebrate or am proud of, but it is an important lesson for parents. Get a camera in your house if at all possible and do whatever it takes to make sure your kids are healthy and happy.

So what happened during those three days with the non-nanny?

Nothing.

She ignored the kids, left the house with them sleeping in their cribs, and spent most of the day on her cellphone and watching TV. Of course, the daily reports she gave us talked about all the great activities they did. False.

We had some suspicions on the second day, so we watched the webcam the entire time on Day 3. It was both heartbreaking and enraging to see someone ignore and neglect our precious angels. To see photos and videos of someone watching TV sprawled out on your couch as she ignored the cries of your babies six feet away is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. We literally had no idea what to do. After months of dreading, worrying, and stressing about leaving our kids with someone else, a lot of those worries had come to pass.

After lots of quick discussions, debates, and prayers, we decided to fire her. Immediately. Some issues can be corrected, but lying is unacceptable. It went down as well as anything awkward and painful like that ever could happen.

It was really sad to see how differently the kids acted during those three days. They are usually so spirited and animated, but during those three days, when they were ignored for much of the day, they were dull and lifeless. After only three days. At night, they went bananas, likely because they did not have any outlet for their energy all day. The first night, one of them woke up every ten minutes throughout the night. That made me sad.

Our dear friends, Paul and Eddie, volunteered to watch the kids the next two days after we fired the non-nanny. Seeing photos of them playing with the kids, hearing their silly stories, and watching how the kids’ temperaments were so much happier meant the world to us. My mom has been hanging with the kids this week and we’ve felt the exact same way. Paul is coming back next week and beyond to be our non-nanny. Thirteen years ago, we were walking around high school together. He was too Green Day to talk to a Backstreet Boy like me. Now, he’s watching our New Kids on the Block every single day. Life is funny.

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Okay, my rambling is almost done. There isn’t any real “point” to this post, but I just wanted to get all these random thoughts down on (electronic) paper. I also want to urge parents to get a webcam and express how thankful we are for friends and family who will help us out on short notice. Finally, I want to emphasize that love trumps everything. We’re the kind of people who avoid conflict at all costs. The last thing in this world we’d ever want to do is fire someone (or eat a Fig Newton). However, when it comes to these kids, we’ll do whatever it takes.

Okay, rambling over. Happy Friday!

The Power of the Church

“Church.”

It’s a word that has the power to evoke many different emotions.

Sadly, a lot of them are negative.

For many people, the church is a symbol of repression, discrimination, and boredom. I get it. There is a lot of bad history there and I’ve fallen asleep in church a bunch of times.

Despite the negativity, the history, and the bad stereotypes, I have a different story to tell.

A story of hope, a story of generosity, a story of love.

That is the church Jesus intended.

That is the church Jesus loved.

That is my church.

A family at our church has been going through some really tough times. The unwanted trifecta: medical issues, unemployment, and the loss of their home. They asked for prayer, so a lot of people prayed. However, I felt like we needed to do more. These folks have amazing spirits, are always willing to serve, and their church should be there to help in their time of greatest need.

It was.

In a way unlike anything I could have ever imagined.

Last fall, one of my good friends, Teddy, and I went out to a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant. We once lived in the same small town in Texas about 25 years ago and so we both have a passion for Mexican food. Work, technology, and to-do lists occupy so much of our time, so it was priceless to just sit down, eat tacos, and talk with a friend face-to-face.

We invited more guys from Capital City Church to join us for Mexican food the next month. We’ve gathered together every single month since last November. I started to call it “Dude Date.” About 25 of us hit up a local Mexican joint, bond over tacos, give out a coveted “Dude of the Month” award, and raise money for a different charity each month. We usually raise about $125. We also raise a lot of eyebrows when we roll into a local taco joint 25-deep on a Monday night.

The Church

Dude of the Month

These two separate stories converged last week. Instead of raising money for a charity, I decided to use this month’s Dude Date to raise money for the family at our church who needed some hope. I emailed the group of guys and asked for help. I thought we’d raise $300. I was really hoping for $500.

We raised $5,160.

(drops the mic)

(picks the mic back up because there is more to say)

I’ve never seen such unbridled generosity, enthusiasm, or love from a community. I was moved, I was shocked, I was honored to call these guys my friends and this church my home.

Most of these guys didn’t know the family we were helping. It didn’t matter. One guy said God was pounding on his heart when he heard there was a need. He gave $1,250. Someone mailed me an anonymous $800 money order. Another guy paid for everyone’s bill at last week’s Dude Date and encouraged the thirty other guys to donate to the family what they would have paid for their meal.

I gave all that money to the family today. It has felt like the week before Christmas since Monday. I was so excited for that moment. It was priceless. It was powerful. That money will be used to make sure this beloved family has a place to live.

That is the power of the church.

The church Jesus loved. The church I love.

The Classic

Our world is full of amazing traditions:

Christmas

The Classic

Free Slurpee Day at 7/11

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The Kreider-McCormick Classic.

The what?!?

The Kreider-McCormick Classic.

Kreider-McCormick ClassicThe Kreider-McCormick Classic started in 1996. However, it wasn’t a Classic then. It was just a dozen kids playing baseball in a park during the last week of school. We were in the seventh grade. None of us had cellphones, flat screen TVs, or the internet. “Macarena” was the number one song that year.

We just happened to play another game of baseball, in that same neighborhood park, during the last week of school the next year too. It then became a tradition. The following year, we went off to high school and met some new friends. One of those friends, Matt H., gave our pickup game of baseball a name:

The Kreider-McCormick Classic.

1999 Classic

(Due to technological and budgetary restraints, this is the only picture in existence from the first ten Classics.)

The world has changed a lot since that first Classic in 1996.  Much of it for the better, some of it for the worse. However, one thing remains the same:

Every summer, twenty or so old friends gather together at the high school we once called home. We play baseball, meet all the new husbands, wives, and babies, and laugh about the priceless memories of our youth. Two strangers met at the 2009 Classic. They got married and had a baby a few years later.

It seems like we were sixteen-year-olds rocking our Jansports, Discmans, and fresh Tommy Hilfiger shirts just a few heartbeats ago. Now, we’re rocking mortgages, baby strollers, and a few extra pounds.

2013 Classic

(The 2013 Classic)

This year’s Kreider-McCormick Classic, the eighteenth version of this esteemed game, so esteemed that the Virginia Beach newspaper wrote about it once, is taking place on August 16, 2014 at 2:00pm at Tallwood High School.

We’re trying to use this year’s Classic to raise money for a good cause. One of our friends and classmates passed away recently. To raise money for a suicide prevention charity, one of the Classic legends, Justin G., designed some t-shirts. You can buy one of those t-shirts for $20 here. All the money goes to the charity. The catch is that we have to buy 20 t-shirts for this to happen. We’re far from that goal. So consider buying some epic Classic memorabilia and supporting a good cause all at the same time.

This event is one of my favorite days of the year. It reminds me that something that may seem small and inconsequential can grow into something beautiful. It gets a little harder to run around the bases each year, but those strained gasps for air and leg cramps remind me there is no place like home and a community of childhood friends.

Goodbye

Saying “goodbye” is one of the hardest things to do in life.

That is why I like to say “goodbye” with awkward dance moves and a little bit of sweat.

Enjoy!

Thanks to David and Jen for hanging out, having some fun, and not laughing at my “dance” moves (too much). It’s pretty funny that we filmed a video for “Bye Bye Bye” and “Gangsta’s Paradise” on the same day. Diversity is the spice of life. Yo.

Goodbye

On a related note, which is the best boy band of all time? Here is your answer.

The Power of Shame

I started writing this blog one year ago. I was feeling directionless and needed a place to coalesce my thoughts. I also hoped to make people laugh by sharing my not-so-deep thoughts about life and insignificant pop culture issues. Most of all, I wanted to use this blog to fight back against the culture of shame that permeates so much of our world.

For years, I was ensnared by the shame of my past mistakes. I was filled with regret. I felt damned to a seemingly hopeless identity and future.

Of course, I told no one.

That’s why I started this blog.

I believe that many of us are bearing burdens that are too heavy to carry alone. Those burdens have the power to crush hope. Those burdens can become our identities.

Yet, we tell no one.

Shame is a powerful force. It hurts to pull down your mask and let the world know that you don’t have it all together.

Well, neither does the rest of the world.

When I started writing about our past marriage problems, I had many people reach out to me and say they had faced similar failures, obstacles, and regrets. It was priceless to know that we were not alone and that others had fought similar battles. I just wished I had shared my story earlier.

That’s why I started this blog.

I thank God for a patient wife, a God who forgives, and two little babies who remind me that what once was broken can be restored.

The Power of Shame

Incomplete

I was in Atlanta this past week. Despite all the rumors on TMZ, I did not spend my four days in the ATL partying it up with Outkast. It was a work trip. When I wasn’t working, I was missing my family (and making an ill-advised decision to eat an entire pizza at 11:30pm).

I often spent breaks flipping through photos of the kids on my phone. It felt depressingly silent during the early mornings and late nights without babies crying. I missed the constant whir of the white noise sound machine.

I felt incomplete.

A year ago, I didn’t even know these little kids existed.

It was on July 19, 2013 that I found out we were having a baby. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. I instantly loved that little nameless and faceless baby who was only the size of a poppy seed.  A few weeks later, we thought we may have lost the baby. We were terrified. Instead, we found out we were having two babies.

Incomplete - 2

I thank God for those two miracles every single day.

Incomplete

Sure, there are times when I’d like to take a nap or I’m tired of walking up the stairs to put a pacifier in a crying baby’s mouth, but I can’t imagine life without these kids. They have melted this thug’s heart. I don’t know how the military heroes of our world do it. Being away from the kids for four days felt like an eternity. I can’t imagine having to do it for six months.

In short, it is really good to be home.

photo

Be Bold

I met Vanilla Ice this week.

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It was an incredible mix of awesome, hilarious, and nostalgia.

It also taught me an incredible lesson.

Be bold.

How did I get to meet Vanilla Ice, arguably the greatest pop culture icon in American history?

I asked.

That’s it.

I saw on his website that he had a tour date in Washington D.C. this week. It was listed as a “private corporate event.” My first reaction was that I need to work for whatever company hires Vanilla Ice for a work event. My second reaction was that I need to get in that event somehow.

After putting it off for a few weeks, I decided to take a chance. I found a few different email addresses online that were affiliated with Vanilla’s website or management team. I emailed them all.

And then I told my story:

I’m a 31-year old husband, lawyer, and father of twins. However, I was once the only white kid in my class. I was once a seven-year-old cruising around on a one-speed bike singing “Ice Ice Baby” all the time. I was once a guy who tried to beatbox in the back of my Spanish class and some guys called me Ice Ice Andrew. It became my AOL screen name when that was still a thing. A bunch of years later, I started a blog with the same name. I make awkward rap videos. Some lawyer friends and I recently performed “Ice Ice Baby” at a charity event that raised over $300,000 for the DC homeless.

That was the story.

It worked.

His manager told me to come by after the event. I went. I hung out with some of his team. They did shots. They asked me to join. That could only lead to trouble, so I politely declined and calmly sipped on my Corona Lite instead.

And then I talked to Vanilla Ice. For five minutes. I told him my story again. We bro hugged.

It was awesome.

Be bold.

(I do have to clear the air about one thing. Vanilla Ice is a liar. Despite his famous proclamation, he does not glow when you turn out the lights. I tested it out.)

Me and Vanilla Ice:

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