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!

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.

 

Communication is Key (and hilarious)

People always say that communication is the key to success in any relationship. Other than figuring out who is going to wash the dishes, which is often a stumbling block in our marriage, that is probably correct. Having kids has also taught me that communication can be incredibly fun and hilarious.

At first, the kids were just little blobs. They could barely open their eyes. They could only cry, eat (sometimes a challenge), poop, pee, and look around ever so slightly. Occasionally, I could tell they would look at me for a brief moment. It was priceless. As they got older, those looks grew longer. Eventually those looks turned into stares.

Communication is Key (and Hilarious)

Then the kids started to squeak, or in our daughter’s case, shriek, and then they started to smile. Not because of gas, but because they were happy. “Sentences” of sounds, screams, and shrieks came next. We have had many conversations with the kids full of incoherent and high-pitched noises. Then, came the laughs, which are my favorite. Each step has been so priceless, so fun, and so hilarious.

Just like me, Austin is a little camera shy and he usually stops laughing and talking whenever the camera is around. Well, we used some ninja camera skills this week and caught him in these two fun videos. Enjoy!

Austin Laughing

Austin and Madison Talking About Their July 4th Plans

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.

Home Alone

Although I don’t own a volleyball, I feel a lot like Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” this week.

I’m living alone.

All alone.

We spent the weekend at a lake house with Amanda’s parents. It was awesome. This morning, I woke up at 5:30am, got ready in the darkness and in complete silence to avoid waking up the semi-sleeping kids, and boarded a train back to DC. Everyone else is still at the lake house. Even Napoleon stayed behind so he can do some water skiing.

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So how will I spend the next few days home alone? Other than working, going to a Nationals game, and warding off burglars with broken Christmas ornaments and buckets of paint, I’ll be sleeping. Like, going to bed at 9pm and not waking up to baby shrieking at 2:30am kind of sleeping.

Although I’ll miss everyone dearly, the thought of uninterrupted and peaceful sleep is a beautiful and glorious thing (but still not as beautiful as my wife, kids, Chihuahua, and all the junk food at the lake house).

Happy Monday, y’all!

Tears, Fears, and Tantrums

Babies.

They can’t talk, they can’t feed themselves, they can’t walk, and they can’t take out the trash (yet).

But babies do have the power to bring a person to his or her knees in tears, whether it is due to a stunning smile or a relentless tantrum.

Hi. There have been a lot of tears in our house this week.

My dear Madison, our fearless leader, our brilliant and beautiful baby girl, our “change my diaper right NOW” diva, has been embracing the “Mad” part of her name over the past week. She had a little attitude during her time in the womb and she’s continued to rock it since the day she was born:

Madison

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Madison has been reminding us that she’s in charge lately. So much that we were pretty certain we’d get kicked out of our hotel last week. While Austin’s cries are pitiful, Madison’s cries are, well, full of “spunk.” Lately, when she gets hungry or tired, instead of just eating or falling asleep, she politely lets us, and everyone on our street, know that she runs this town.

This has led us to take some desperate measures, including standing on the side of the highway swinging her car seat and sitting in a pitch black bathroom rocking her for thirty minutes as the bath water runs. Of course, we’ve been playing Katy Perry music A LOT. It’s been intense. It’s been frustrating. It’s been tiring. Those moments create a ton of raw emotion. We’ve felt like we’re doing something wrong, we’ve felt helpless, we’ve worried that she might be sick, and we’ve both needed to take a mental and emotional timeout. But that crying, fussing, drooling, squirming, screaming baby is our glorious, fearless, world-changing daughter. So we do whatever it takes, despite the exhaustion, frustration, and tears.

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While Madison’s “spunky” moments have weighed heaviest on Amanda, that little girl has been causing me all sorts of tears too. These kids bring me so much joy that I’ve cried more over the past three months than my entire life combined (excluding the Patriots’ Super Bowl losses to the Giants). On Saturday, as I was driving home from playing basketball with some dudes from church, I heard this song on the radio called “Cinderella” by Steven Curtis Chapman. It’s all about a dad and his daughter and how she grows up so quickly. Of course, the daughter gets married in the end of the song. Of course, it’s super cheesy. Of course, I was crying the entire car ride home.

Because that’s my baby girl. She’s not allowed to grow up. Neither is her brother.

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Round Two

I enjoy my job. A lot. However, the last six weeks have been tough. It’s been really sad to leave my amazing wife and kids at home each morning to go sit in an office and stare at a computer all day (and sometimes night). It’s especially tough because the kids are so happy in the mornings when I leave and, well, they are less so at night when I return.

It’s all good though.

It’s time for paternity leave, baby babies.

I took two weeks of paternity leave in April. It was amazing. However, it also felt like I was Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. It was a battle. It was exhausting. Much like that Creed-killing Communist, I lost the fight. It was just diapers and feedings for fourteen straight days. Checking the mail and taking the dog out were my recreational activities. Going back to work seemed like a vacation.

Now it’s time for Round Two of paternity leave.

We’re going to try to stretch our family wings a bit more this time. Of course, there will be plenty of diapers, feedings, and naps, but here are some other things that will be going down during these two weeks of paternity leave (I hope):

1. The kids are going to their first Nationals game! I feel bad for subjecting them to decades of frustration as a Nationals fan, but at least they’ll be in “good” company.

Round Two

2. No alarm clocks will be set.

3. I got a new bike last weekend. It’s shiny. I’ve been too scared to ride it because of the nasty weather and my massive work bag I’ve been rocking on the trail. I will ride it this week. A lot. Next week too.

4. We’re going to Charlottesville! We considered hanging out in San Francisco for a week, but my work schedule was a bit up in the air and the thought of 12 hours of flight time with two babies was terrifying. We’re excited about giving the kids a tour of our family history, visiting Monticello for the first time (I’m ashamed of that fact), and eating way too much food at some of our favorite college spots.

Round Two - UVA

5. I’m going to read a book. It has been a year.

6. There will be another silly “happy X month” photo. Sorry, kids.

Two Months

7. I’m going to eat at Taco Bell. For breakfast.

8. I’m playing a game of basketball at the Verizon Center. Amanda and the kids will be there too. I’m hoping John Wall will sign the kids’ heads.

9. I will not gain any weight on paternity leave this time, but…

10. We will eat at Dairy Queen. At least twice. I need a Blizzard.

11. It’s been about a hundred years, but rap videos will be made. The kids have been going on and on about how badly they want to be in a rap video. It’s time. Yo.

12. An epic cookout with 273 other tired parents and their kids will occur. We’re hoping we can leave our kids there for a few hours and no one will notice. I want to go see “Godzilla.”

13. The 183-foot high pile of clean clothes on the guest bed and the 392-foot pile of dirty clothes on our bedroom floor will be eliminated. By me. Amanda flooded the house last time she did laundry. That’s my game.

14. We will go on walks. Our dog will likely pout after a few dozen feet, lay down, and then I’ll be forced to carry him home. Our neighbor with the Greyhound will laugh.

Napoleon Confused

15. We will go to the neighborhood playground. I will play basketball and destroy the local middle schoolers. Amanda and the kids will pretend they don’t know me.

I. Can’t. Wait.

(All of this is subject to Amanda’s written approval.)

Happy weekend, party people!