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).

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:

UVA Graduation

Marriage Should Be Fun

There are an infinite number of books, articles, speeches, conferences, sermons, blog posts, and Dr. Phil episodes about marriage. Whatever the medium, you’ll hear people talking about how communication is key, compromise is important, and that spouses should serve each other wholeheartedly.

One thing is often missing from all those conversations:

Marriage should be fun.

A lot of fun.

Marriage Should Be Fun

Although marriage is a beautiful friendship and a holy covenant, it is often talked about as if it is a burden, a chore, or a task list.

Naw, dawg, naw.

Marriage is so much more.

Marriage is inside jokes that no one else could ever understand.

Baby talk and silly voices (but leave that stuff at home).

Jokes that have never been funny, but you keep telling them anyways.

Embarrassing stories that you tease each other about for years.

Traveling to new places and ending up in ridiculous situations.

Memories of trivial things that you’ll remember forever.

Making bad decisions and laughing about them later.

Dancing (awkwardly). At home and in public.

We’ve had our fair share of bad times and good times. The bad times were full of tears, criticisms, and serious conversations. The good times were full of laughs.

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.

The Ring Reminder

Our house is a mess.

There is laundry, mail, and baby stuff everywhere.  Thus, it has been really easy to misplace things lately, like bills, our dog, and my wedding ring.

One day this week, I couldn’t find my wedding ring before I went to work.  Thus, I was seemingly single for the day in DC.  Although there were no cat calls and no one offered to pay for my salad at Panera, the day was still memorable.  I felt off all day long.  I felt like something was missing and I didn’t feel like myself.  Honestly, I felt sad.

My, how things have changed.

Three years ago, I rarely wore my wedding ring.  Our marriage was crumbling and my wedding ring, once a symbol of a sacred promise, had become a symbol of frustration, pain, and bitterness.  I didn’t want to be constantly reminded that my marriage was failing, so I didn’t wear my wedding ring.  We hit rock bottom.

But just like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky II and Britney Spears in 2008, we bounced back.

Now, I feel lost without my wedding ring.  Not only is it a beautiful symbol of a sacred promise, but it is now a daily reminder that hope should never die and that restoration is always possible.

My Love. My Inspiration

 

Regrets

It’s almost time for Austin and Madison to make their big debuts.  Although it feels like we should be on month five or six of the pregnancy journey, we’re at Week 37 and only have a few days left.

Honestly, I’m filled with so many different emotions.  I’m infinitely excited, I’m stressed about getting the “IT’S TIME” phone call, I’m humbled that I can be a part of something so wonderful, I’m intimidated by the idea of being a role model for two living creatures, and I feel a fulfillment that I’ve never known before.

However, I also feel sad.

No, I’m not sad that we’re having kids (even though we gave up our Nationals season tickets this year because of the babies).

I’m sad that I didn’t live the last eight years to the fullest. Amanda and I are about to enter a very special season of our lives, but it is a season that will look nothing like the past decade. I’ve been becoming increasingly nostalgic about the “old” days when we ate cheap pasta 3-4 nights a week, spent our evenings watching bad reality television, and got home from work at 5:15pm.  We wandered through an Egyptian desert, hiked through Austria, and lived in Cambodia for two months.  We have a lengthy list of things we loved and appreciated about our 8+ years of childless marriage, but it’s hard not to think of the missed opportunities.  

Regrets

It would be nice to say I lived a life without any regrets, but that’s not true. However, I’ve learned from those mistakes.  After eight years of childless marriage, here’s what I wish I had done differently:

I wish I worked less.

I wish we went out to dinner more.

I wish we spent more money. Saving is great, but saving just for the sake of saving isn’t worth it. Sorry, Dave Ramsey.  #yolo

I wish I studied less in law school.

Although we went to 13 different countries, I still wish we traveled more.  There are few things more important than seeing how the other 6,999,999,999 people on this world live.

I shouldn’t have wasted so much time watching TV.  Especially “Heroes.”  That show was terrible after the first season.

I wish we went on more walks.

I wish we never spent a single second trying to blame each other for our marriage problems.

I wish we prayed together more.

I wish I spent less time looking at my phone.

I wish we didn’t walk ten miles through shady parts of Los Angeles to save $20 on a cab.

I wish we did more DC touristy stuff.

Although I didn’t drink a ton of alcohol, I still wish I drank less.

I wish we adopted a second dog. (No offense, Napoleon.)

I wish we bought a grill.  Both the cooking kind and the sweet rapper mouthpiece.

I wish I cared less about what people think and cared more about what God thinks.

I wish I never made Amanda stay at a $5 hostel in Bangkok that had poop on the wall.

Well, that’s the list.  I’m sure there are more things to add, but my metro ride is coming to an end.  I won’t sit around and wallow about those regrets, but the missed opportunities do make me feel a bit sad.  However, reflecting on such things encourages me to do better during this next stage of life.  And I’ll make sure we splurge on the $10 room next time we go to Thailand.

Second Chances

I turned 31 today.

I thought about writing a post about how I still feel young, but that would be a lie.

I feel old.  My knees pop when I walk. I have to take knockoff Ibuprofen every day to keep the swelling in my ankles down. My favorite drink is sparkling water. I fall asleep by 11pm on weekends if I don’t have any plans. I’m always tired. Gardening excites me. I turn on the radio and I don’t recognize most of the songs playing on the “hip” stations (but I still know all of Deliah’s jams at night). I am constantly reminiscing about the “old” days of AIM, *NSYNC, and answering a telephone and not knowing who was on the other end.

Honestly, some of that stuff makes me sad.  I miss being able to lose five pounds over a weekend.  I miss the late-night shenanigans of college.  I miss TRL.

But, yo, I’m so thankful to be 31. I’m so thankful to be alive. I’m so thankful for my friends, my family, my church, my job, and my Chihuahua. I’m so thankful for Justin Timberlake.

I’m so thankful for second chances.

Just a few years ago, I wanted to give up on God. I wanted to walk away from my marriage. I wanted to quit on my dreams. I was bitter and confused.

Thankfully, I’ve seen each of those areas of my life restored. I’m undeserving of such a gift. I thank God for His limitless grace, my wife for her infinite patience, and my friends and family for their constant encouragement.  I thank Justin for “Mirrors.”

I’m thankful for second chances.

I’m also thankful for all of you who feel inspired to babysit our twins.