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.

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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.

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

Madison - II

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!

It Takes Two

Two months ago, my life changed a lot.

I ate an epic club sandwich. It was perfect.

I also met our newborn son and daughter that day.

First Day

Two months and approximately 1,200 diapers later, life looks a lot different now:

My wife and I haven’t left the house together, without children, for 60+ days.

That probably won’t happen in the near future. We’re still firmly in the paranoid parent stage.

I desperately want to go see the new “Captain America,” “300,” and “Transformers” movies. I will watch them on Netflix in six months.

We have started using online grocery shopping. Thank you, internet.

We had dinner with some friends on Friday night. I was able to engage in focused conversation 25% of the time. The rest of the night was spent bouncing, swaying, and trying to hold a pacifier in a kid’s mouth while having a conversation.

On that note, I have a love-hate relationship with pacifiers. Just like a midnight run to Taco Bell, things are great at first, but you may eventually regret that decision. That pacifier will fall out at some point and there is a good chance that baby will scream.

I’ve got nothing but love for baby swings. God bless the man or woman who invented those.

My wife is a legend.

I want to give out millions of high fives on those occasions when I successfully transition a sleeping baby from my arms to the crib. However, I give out zero high fives on those occasions due to the risk of waking the baby.

However, those times when you lay a baby down and you start to hear some grunts, whimpers, cries, or movement, those are the moments that strengthen your prayer life.

I’ve been to thirty countries and three Britney Spears’ concerts, but there is nothing greater than hanging at home with the family.

The dirty laundry never ends. The piles of clean clothes on the floor never go away.

I’m disappointed when a diaper has pee, but no poop. The poop will likely happen within five minutes of putting on the new diaper.

I enjoy baby clothes a lot.

Matching

Going to work in the morning, especially on Mondays, is so rough. I do everything to stall for time. I’ve done laundry and paid bills at 8:00am on some recent workdays.

We hit a dark spot a few weeks ago where we felt like we were going crazy. Thankfully, that has passed. However, we sometimes feel like prisoners to two hungry babies. At least our captors are really cute.

The idea of taking our kids to day care in a few months is terrifying and sad. Not just because it will cost an insane amount of money, but because we’re paranoid parents who will miss them desperately. I’m sure it will become easier as they get older, bigger, and stronger, but right now that thought is depressing.

I think way too much about germs these days.

I have listened to Katy Perry’s “Roar” 100+ times. This week.

These kids are growing up too fast. We see them as big kids already. I’m sure that’s funny to the rest of the world who sees them as tiny babies.

There are a million different baby books, videos, and websites out there that will tell you a million different ways to raise your baby. Those suggestions are infinitely helpful, but there is no right way to do anything. Just do what you have to do and don’t judge others who do things differently.

I’ve realized I use my phone way too much. I think a lot of us do. That should stop. We all deserve better.

Our kids may not like us when they are teenagers.

One Month

 

Two Months

Taking a shower at home is now a luxury. Naps too.

Seeing these kids smile, even if gas induced, is the best thing ever.

Other than naps.

Shortcomings

I have never been in a boxing match.

I have never been in a fight.

I have never been in a wrestling throwdown (other than when I entered a tournament for eleven-year-old kids and had to wrestle a guy with a mustache).

However, I am a parent.  It feels like a fight sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s the most wonderful experience of my life. There are moments that are so beautiful they make me cry. There are moments that make me laugh. There are so many moments I’ll cherish forever.

The Unspoken Battle

However, there are also moments that bring out the worst in me.

Sometimes, I feel frustrated.

Angry.

Helpless.

Terrified.

Exasperated.

I don’t think we talk about those moments enough.

I’ve never experienced anything like staring at a baby that has been crying furiously for an hour. Those moments when you’ve tried everything, but the cries keep coming: feeding, burping, diaper changing, rubbing his/her back, swaying, silly baby talk, pacifiers, more diaper changing, bouncing, running water in the bathtub, playing music, singing, and anything else that has even a remote chance of getting your baby to stop crying.

Sometimes, nothing works.

I wish I could say that I always remain calm, cool, and collected in those situations. They are so intense and so raw. I wish I could say that I always empathize with the precious little babies that have no ability to function in the world without my wife and I.

I can’t.

I’m human. I’m a work in progress.

Despite the insanity and intensity of those helpless moments, I’m thankful for them. They are making us better and stronger people and parents. They also make me appreciate the sound of silence.*

*Not the awful Simon & Garfunkel song though.