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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6 months - 4

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.

6 Months - 2

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).

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.

Fantastic Four

The kids are about to celebrate their four-month birthdays. And by “celebrate,” I mean that they’ll lay on a blanket and we’ll take pictures of them wearing cheesy costumes and I’ll use a terrible pun.

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I’m not sure where all the time has gone. On one hand, it feels like we were just waiting anxiously in the hospital delivery room a few heartbeats ago. On the other, I can’t remember life without kids and so it seems like they have been hanging around forever.

So here are some random thoughts about fatherhood and babies after four months of priceless moments, a thousand dirty diapers, and a lot of sleepless nights:

-Baby smiles and laughs are the greatest thing I’ve ever watched. “Jurassic Park” is a close second.

-My wardrobe is ridiculous and I’m meticulous with organizing my clothes and making sure that everything is neat and ironed before I leave the house. Well, I used to be like that. On Monday, I picked my clothes off the floor and rocked red pants to work that had spit-up on them, because, well, babies.

-The kids have regressed with their sleep during the past few weeks. It’s humorous in a sad and “wow, is it really 3:30am?!?!” kind of way when you long for five hours of sleep.

-I love watching soccer players celebrate goals at the World Cup. I do similar airplane moves and fist pumps when I successfully lay a baby down in a crib without waking him or her up.

-There are a lot of movies out that I’d like to go see. I’ll catch them on Netflix in six months.

-It’s amazing how babies can shift the important question of “what do I want to do with my life” to “what should I do with my life so I can help support these kids” so quickly. .

-I look at baby photos and videos on my phone multiple times a day when I’m at work. I should print a bunch out and put them around my office, but that task hasn’t passed “work,” “sleep,” or “exercise occasionally” on the to-do list yet.

-Trying to figure out day care is the toughest decision we’ve ever had to make during our relationship. First, deciding whether we’ll both go back to work is a really tough choice. We both want to work and interact with human beings who can form sentences, but we also want to stay at home and hang out with the kids all day. Second, deciding who will watch your kids, your perfect, beautiful, and adorable kids, all day when you’re at work is a sad, challenging, and scary decision to make.

-The protective papa bear in me has already come out a few times. I called to report an 18-wheeler that recklessly cut us off a few weeks ago. I also confronted a guy, politely, in the Metro parking lot after he blew by a stopped school bus with kids walking around so he could make a green light. I was worried he would go crazy and try to fight me or something, but I guess my teal pants scared him off.

-Travelling with kids. OMG. Someone invent a teleport ASAP.

-We had to listen to Katy Perry’s “Roar” 10 straight times when driving to the lake house last weekend. Although I appreciate that it always calms down Madison, instantly, I’ve listened to that song way too many times.

-The inventor of baby swings is our savior (other than Jesus and Tony Bennett, UVA’s basketball coach, not the singer). Thank you.

-Kids grow up too fast. I miss the “old” days when they were “small” and I wish I could relive those moments over and over again. Not because those days were better, but those first minutes, moments, and days were so intense, so scary, and so beautiful.

-I miss my autonomy. I miss sitting on the couch and staying there as long as I wanted. I miss eating dinner when the food is hot instead of an hour after it is cooked due to baby shenanigans. However, I will gladly give up all of those things for these kids.

-Hearing a baby stirring or crying on the monitor often creates an interesting test for a relationship. Neither of you wants to get off the couch or bed, but someone has to do it. Thus, you wait 5-10 seconds, sometimes pretending to be asleep, hoping the other leads the charge…

-Having these kids has given me such a different perspective with my faith. I am constantly mesmerized by His love for humanity and His endless grace.

-Most importantly, moms are heroes. So are people who want to babysit.

In the Beginning

Ten years ago today, I went to work. I had just finished my third year at the University of Virginia and I was a baller earning $7.25 an hour selling sneakers at Dick’s Sporting Goods. I spent most of my nights watching Seinfeld, eating ramen, talking to friends on AIM, and studying for the LSAT.

The night of June 4, 2004 was a little different.

I went on a date. A first date.

Her name was Amanda Alward.

We had been friends for about a year. However, it was a very weird “friendship.” It was one of those relationships where you both like each other, but the timing is off and no one wants to bust a move. Thus, our pre-dating story is very complicated and dramatic, largely due to my own immaturity, so I’ll save it for another time. Amanda even told me a few times during that year that she hated me. Ouch. Despite all that, before our first date, I knew she would be the girl I would marry. Amanda felt the same way about me.

On our first date, we went to a drive-in movie just outside Charlottesville, got Slurpees at 7-11, and sat on the steps of the Rotunda and talked for hours. Amanda was supposed to bring a picnic dinner, but was afraid of bringing the “wrong” kind of food, so brought nothing at all instead. On our first date, we told each other that we’d get married someday. On our first date, we wondered aloud what our kids would look and act like.

All on our first date.

People, don’t do that. That’s crazy.

Unless it works.

The funny thing about love and relationships is that there is no guide. No blueprint. No roadmap. I think the fact that we talked about getting married and having kids on our first date is nuts. We were 21 and didn’t know anything, except for the fact that we knew we were on the start of an amazing adventure. Although we didn’t know where the Yellow Brick Road of our lives was leading, we knew we’d be walking the road together.

Of course, at the time, we thought that road would be straight and easy. Despite all the happiness and joy that saturated the start of our relationship, there have been many mistakes over the years and we’ve almost bailed a few times. Of course, ten years ago, we would never have thought anything like that was possible. But it happens. That’s life. Although the tough times have been frustrating, humbling, and challenging, they have helped make our relationship so much richer and stronger.

I’m thankful for a God full of hope and mercy. I’m thankful that Amanda said “yes” ten years ago. I’m thankful that I had 50% off coupons for the movie because “Starsky and Hutch” was terrible.

(Almost) Ten Years Ago
In the Beginning

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Our Kids in Front of the Building Where We First Talked About Them. Ten Years Ago.

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Awakening

Life has changed a lot over the past few weeks:

We got a new coffee machine at work. It looks like something from Star Trek, but it’s downright amazing. “Despicable Me 2” was dissed at the 2014 Oscars and didn’t win “Best Picture.” Finally, my incredible wife gave birth to twins on March 5th.

Parenthood

As evidenced by the dearth of blog posts and the dark circles under my eyes, it’s been a challenging three weeks. I’ve had a lot of fun topics that I wanted to write about, but I usually just fall asleep instead. Alas, I’m slowly crawling out of the shadows and starting to resume a normal life. A normal life that is so much richer now that I have two new partners in crime (and a house full of baby junk).  After three weeks of parenting experience, here are my initial thoughts:

1.  Mothers. You all deserve a round of applause. My goodness.

2.  To the man or woman who invented the pacifier, you are my hero. I’m not even kidding. Thank you. Now, can you figure out how to help a newborn keep one in his or her mouth?

3. I have often had doubts about the existence of God during various times of my life. I’m a critical thinker who appreciates facts more than feelings. However, I have no doubts when I realize that this…

Austin and Madison - The Start

…became this…

A Fantastic Beginning

4.  People often ask me how the babies are doing. I always respond by saying that they are still alive. They think I’m trying to be funny. I’m not. That is a big deal because we’re stumbling our way though this whole parenting thing.

5.  For a horrifying sixty seconds, we thought we were going to lose Madison. On her first day of life. She started to choke and began turning blue. We had been parents for about five hours and had no idea what to do. There were no nurses around. It was the worst moment of my life. Alas, she pulled through and she’s alive today, which, again, is a big deal. Oh, and now I’m insanely paranoid about any little mouth noise the babies make.

6.  These kids are in the 90th percentile for height and 30th percentile for weight. I wish I was that lucky.

7.  Austin and Madison each had a distinct and beautiful personality the moment they were born. Madison came out at 1:41pm. She wasn’t really crying, but her big, beautiful eyes were looking around with a bold sense of wonder. Since that moment, she’s never stopped soaking in all her new surroundings. You can tell she’s constantly thinking and learning. Meanwhile, Austin, just like me, spends his days eating, sleeping, and crying.

8.  This was the happiest moment of my life.

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 Not pictured: Austin screaming.

9. We have so many amazing outfits for these kids to wear. I had big plans for them to be dressed to the nines like ballers each day, even though they are just hanging out at home for a few weeks. In reality, the clothes selection process usually happens in the wake of a diaper explosion and the owner of said diaper is likely crying. A lot. His or her brother or sister is probably crying too. Thus, they wear whatever is on the top of the stack of clean clothes.

10. I’m struggling to find a healthy work/life balance. Hopefully paternity leave in a few weeks will help. I’m also finding it really challenging to find time to exercise, but really easy to eat way too much junk food.

11. Our poor dog is confused.

Napoleon Confused

12. I did not know what true fear felt like until a fussy baby has just calmed down at 3:00am and I laid him or her down to sleep and I crawled into bed. A minute later, as I lay staring towards a dark ceiling, I hear stirring and whimpering from the pack-and-play across the room. Will the baby fall back asleep or will the noise continue to build until a violent explosion of cries emerges?  The seconds feel like hours. Those moments have helped strengthen my prayer life.

13. Those first few diapers were horrifying.  So smelly, so sticky, so black.

14. I’ll be honest, when I found out we were having twins, my first response was to laugh. Then I nearly passed out. Then I wanted to cry because I thought my life was over. Now, despite the late nights and 150+ diapers a week, I realize that it was the greatest gift(s) I’ve ever been given (except for the purple Jordans Amanda got me for Christmas).

15. Seriously, let’s give the mothers a round of applause.

Meeting Mommy x2

Bye.