Feminist Dad

I’ve learned a few important lessons during my six months of being a dad:

(1) I love traveling. I love baseball games. I love biking. None of those things come close to the magnificence of hanging out with my kids at home.

(2) Rolling Stone said that Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” is the greatest song ever. Rolling Stone is a liar. The right answer is “Butterfly Kisses.” You win, Bob Carlisle.

(3) I am a feminist.

I say that with pride.

“Feminism” is a word that may spark many different reactions. I’m an old school gangsta so I like to cut through the nonsense and go straight to the basics. Here’s what my homeboy Webster has to say about the word “feminism”:

“the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities”

Well, that was easy.

So why do I call myself a “feminist”?

That’s easy too.

(1) I believe God created men and women as equals. God has the same abundant love and limitless grace for all of us.

(2) Everyone is equal under the United States Constitution. Unfortunately, that was not always the case. It is now though, so we should embrace it passionately.

(3) I want my bold, remarkable, brilliant, beautiful, hilarious, and magnificent daughter to get the same opportunities and respect as my spirited, adorable, enormous, goofy, handsome, and gregarious son.

Feminist Dad

I fear that will not be the case.

We live in a world where people asked Amanda if she was going back to work after the kids were born, but no one asked me.

We live in a world where it seems like every single item of baby “girl” clothing is pink or covered with flowers, hearts, or cupcakes.

We live in a world where one of the most popular organizations in America suspends an employee two games for beating up his wife, but another employee four games for taking prescription drugs.

We live in a world where people make jokes and memes about that very issue.

We live in a world where gaggles of men ogle and harass women at bus stops.

We live in a world where nearly all of our political and business leaders are men.

We live in a world where girls are told to be princesses. If my daughter wants to be a princess, we will have the grandest of tea parties and make-believe balls. Cinderella will be jealous. I hope my daughter grows up dreaming about being President or a scientist, but it will be her choice.

We live in a world where women in magazines are photoshopped because apparently just being themselves is not good enough.

We live in a world where I’m told I should dress my daughter “like a girl” when I put both kids in cheesy cartoon costumes for their monthly birthday photo.

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We live in a world where 20% women are raped at some point in their lives.

We live in a world where rape victims are blamed for their “bad” choices.

I don’t want my daughter to live in that world.

I don’t want my wife to live in that world.

I don’t want my son to live in that world.

I don’t want to live in that world.

That’s why I’m a feminist.

Me and My Drool-Covered and Fabulous Daughter:

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Ohhhhhh, We’re Halfway There…

The kids are now six months old. Justin Timberlake had agreed to come down to DC and perform at the kids’ (half) birthday party, but we couldn’t quite get our schedules *NSYNC…

(sorry, folks)

Oh, and we’re not having a (half) birthday party. That would be sad. Plus, we’ll probably celebrate tonight by falling asleep on the couch by 9:30pm.

That sounds like the perfect Friday night to me.

One day and (almost) six months:

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Wait. Six months?! Seriously?!

Honestly, I’m not sure how that happened (other than the fact that the Earth spun around on its axis approximately 180 times). Time flies when you’re changing diapers.

Here are a few random thoughts about the kids hitting this (half) milestone:

1. Like an athlete accepting an MVP award or a rapper accepting a Grammy, I’d first like to thank God. Seriously. These babies are miracles. I never want to take that for granted.

2. I am also so thankful that these babies are healthy. They have had a few problems here and there, but nothing too major. However, those little worries have weighed heavily on us. My heart breaks when I read about precious little kids struggling with health problems.

3. Our tiny little babies aren’t so tiny anymore. I’m sure the rest of the world sees them as small, but they look huge to us. STOP GROWING UP SO FAST!

4. Babies get tired. In response, babies fight sleep. Babies are crazy.

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5. Seriously, did you just wake up for the tenth time tonight?

6. Our kids love to roll over onto their stomachs when they sleep. Within seconds of rolling over, they start to scream. We flip them onto their backs. Two seconds later, they roll back onto their stomachs again. Unsurprisingly, they start to scream. Again, babies are crazy.

7. In the middle of the night, we sometimes find ourselves in a dark place between anger and frustration when the kids wake up wailing. Amanda sets the kids down sometimes and leaves the room. I grab the side of the crib and squeeze the railing. In the morning, we feel terrible about getting mad about those two precious angels.

8. If I could restart this whole parenting thing over again, I would never use a pacifier. Our kids are hooked on them. I imagine them singing Miley’s “We Can’t Stop” when they cry because their pacifiers fell out, but then I remember that might be a reference to drugs.

9. I wouldn’t trade the most frustrating and challenging moment with kids with the best moment of my life without them. I know one day I’ll desperately miss this stage when they were so dependent on us.

10. We will never get to an event on time again.

11. Seeing the kids interact with each other is priceless. However, it usually ends with someone trying to scratch the face of his or her sibling.

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12. We sing the kids three songs at night as part of their bedtime routine. One is “Amazing Grace.” The other are *NSYNC songs.

13. Everyone on the road seems to drive so much faster these days. Oh, and there are a lot more germs everywhere. I also leave a bunch of lights on at night now so no one robs us. In general, these kids have made me paranoid.

14. I’m running out of creative excuses to use when strangers ask to hold our babies.

15. Confession time. I wish I could breastfeed the babies. It is such an incredible way to lose weight. Oh, and there is that whole bonding thing too. Similarly, I’m always tempted to taste some of the milk when feeding bottles to the babies. I have not given into that temptation because that is both creepy and gross.

16. Sleeping for four hours straight is now a huge victory.

17. Making plans can be kind of pointless. The kids run our schedules now. More specifically, the kids’ naps run our schedules now.

18. We’ve taken cheesy birthday pictures each month. We tried to take the six-month pictures last night, but the kids had other plans. I’m really excited about their six-month costumes and the terrible pun(s) I’ll be using. Honestly, I’m probably way too excited.

The Five Month Photo:

5 Months

19. Moms are the best.

20. Toys are a waste of money.

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21. I can’t remember a life without kids. I also can’t remember a life where I didn’t have to listen to a white noise maker playing through the baby monitor all night.

22. The poop is getting grosser.

22 seems like a good ending point. Mainly because it’s late at night. Oh, and I like Taylor Swift.

Have a great weekend! Austin is already celebrating:

Reminders

After a year of consistent blogging, I’ve fallen off the wagon in recent months.

Here’s the reason why:

Well, actually, here’s the reasons why:

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Those kids are the greatest blessings in my life. I love them so much. However, along with all the incredible joys, there are many challenges. The kids have decided that sleep is overrated and they usually cry a combined ten times a night. That means that the carpet between our bedroom and the nursery is well-worn and that my wife and I are really tired. All the time. I’ve also been struggling with the work/life balance in recent weeks. It’s hard to see my kids for only a few minutes at night. To even make that happen, I usually have to rush home to make it back before bedtime and then I work late at night. In light of all that, stuff like blogging, exercise, and basic hygiene have fallen by the wayside.

So even though the kids have made life a little more challenging, tiring, and complicated, they bring me infinite and indescribable joy.

They also remind me to be thankful and to never give up hope.

Three years ago, our marriage was a hot mess. We talked about divorce. It makes me so sad to admit this, but I researched Virginia’s divorce laws. Amanda spent a lot of nights in our guest bedroom.

Three years later, that bedroom is now inhabited by two demanding long-term guests who don’t even pay rent: our kids.

Three years later, our marriage has never been stronger.

Three years later, I’m so thankful for such an incredible wife. I’m so thankful for such wonderful kids. I’m so thankful for God’s infinite grace.

I’m also thankful that throughout all of the stresses and worries of life, I have four beautiful and hilarious reminders who will never let me forget how much I’ve been blessed.

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See you tomorrow (or in two weeks).

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.

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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!

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.

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I thank God for those two miracles every single day.

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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.

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All-Stars

Hi.

Tonight is Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. Unfortunately, I fell a few million votes short of making one of the teams. Maybe next year.

In the interim, I’ve put together a list of some of the All-Stars in my life. This list isn’t exclusive, but just some of the names I could think up at midnight. I just want to say thanks to these people for being awesome.

Amanda M.: I’m really glad I married this lady. She makes me laugh every single day.

Steve Ellis: I’m guessing none of y’all know Steve. I don’t know Steve. However, Steve founded Chipotle. Thank you, Steve.

Paul M. and Eddie W.: These guys are some of our BFFs. They make us laugh, they are always there to help, and they are incredible cooks.

Paul and I as (unintentionally creepy) Bert and Ernie, Halloween 2013:

All Stars

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Hannah M.Hannah inspired me to start this blog. She also loves the same kind of terrible music that I enjoy.

Tom Brady: He’s won “5” Super Bowls for my beloved New England Patriots. Thank you, Tom. We should hang out again:

My mom and Amanda’s mom: Both of them have stayed with us a bunch over the first few months of our kids’ lives. Their love, support, and help have been priceless. We would not have survived without them.

Joe S.We send a lot of snarky texts. Most of them are about baseball and the horrible grammar we see people use on Facebook. It is healthy to vent somewhere.

Steve F.: More snarky texts. Most are about crazy stuff our kids do, the highs and lows of being a lawyer, and how amazing our wives are at everything. Steve also makes me feel young when we hang out because he’s much older than me.

Josh O.: I look up to this guy more than I do any of my other friends. Josh is 6’6″.

Howard and Kelly A.: Howard has been one of my BFFs for 20+ years. They are the nicest people in the world. Kelly is also really short.

Kelly and Josh:

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Terrence C.This guy drives like a thousand miles to church on Sunday. He’s a wonderful, insightful, and funny guy who I am honored to know. He also likes Mexican food.

Kim and Matt H.These two model the love of Jesus in such incredible ways. Plus, their son is absurdly cute.

Vanilla Ice: Thank you for the inspiration and the greatest work of art ever created.

Dennis and Donna P: They are such incredible pastors, mentors, and inspirations.

Ryan Zimmermann: You’ve followed me from Virginia Beach, to UVA, to DC. Thank you for the support. You are also my favorite baseball player.

Joy and Hunter W.These two are crazy. Crazy because they are willing to do whatever it takes to build an incredible church community.

Andy DunnThis guy is the reason I wear pink, yellow, green, orange, and purple pants. He founded Bonobos.

“Wear the Rainbow.”

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Chris D. and Alissa K.: These two are hilarious. They are getting married in October. I can’t wait to celebrate their lives. However, I’ve been told that I have to stay at least 20 feet away from the microphone.

Charles C.This guy constantly challenges me to be a better man, husband, and father. He is from Texas. I am too.

Brian WilliamsHe is my favorite newscaster. He is also my baseball BFF and such a wise and thoughtful friend.

Chad and Kaci C.: Their lives are crazy, but they live them out with incredible grace, composure, and humor. We want to be parents like them.

Ben I.: This guy came to church one time and was volunteering the next week. He has been such an inspiration to so many people at our church.

Ron M.Amazing man. Amazing life story. Amazing musician. Amazing beard.

John C.Very few of my guy friends love shoes as much as I do. John does. #solidarity

Jen S. and David W.I could not live the thug life without them.

My grandparents: I would not be here without them. Literally. Plus, all four are magnificent human beings.

My kids: They have changed everything. For the better.

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Okay, time to go to bed. Bye.

 

In the Beginning

Ten years ago in July 2004, I sold some shoes at Dick’s Sporting Goods, ate too many cookies at Subway, and drove to Richmond to meet Amanda for dinner. We went to Five Guys. We ate burgers, devoured a greasy bag full of fries, and made it rain with peanut shells up in that joint.

Later that night, I asked Amanda to be my girlfriend.

She said “yes.”

And then I sang a Kelly Clarkson song.

I know it’s hard to imagine this story getting any more romantic, but it did:

All this took place in the middle of an office complex.

It’s been quite an adventure since then and we’re still not very classy. However, we are still together and our relationship is stronger than ever.

I know a lot of guys like to show affection by referring to their wives as their girlfriends. I won’t do that because I think it is a little weird. Plus, my wedding ring and life insurance policy say otherwise. However, I still like this lady a lot. I never dated anyone before Amanda. Sure, there had been dates, but I never had a girlfriend because I was waiting for the right lady:

I found her.

The Unexpected

Younger Us: April 2005

In the Beginning

 UVA’s Graduation Day, May 2005:

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