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:

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.

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.

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:

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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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Changing the Game

Life has changed a little bit since the twins arrived in March. For example, going to a baseball game has become quite the chaotic adventure.

Changing the Game

We’ve been to about sixty Nationals games during our time in the DC area. We like to get to the games two hours early to watch batting practice, get some sun, and chat with the players. We have watched hundreds of games on TV. Witnessing Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS in person, when Jayson Werth hit a walk off home run on the 13th pitch of an at bat to break a 1-1 tie, is one of the ten greatest moments of my life. Watching the Nationals blow a 6-0 lead in Game 5 the next night, and give up three runs with two outs in the ninth, to lose 9-7 was one of the worst ten moments of my life.

In short, our family takes baseball very seriously.

Changing the Game - 2On Friday, it was finally time to introduce the kids to one of our favorite traditions.

It was exhausting.

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Unlike prior years, when we’d just buy tickets and show up, I checked the weather report dozens of times before we decided to go to the game. We had to Goldilocks that sucker: it couldn’t be too hot or too cold. Thankfully, the weather was perfect this weekend in DC. We also weren’t going to risk the insanity of the pre and post-game Metro rides, so we reserved a parking spot for $16 in advance.

Game on.

Almost.

We got into the stadium just before the first pitch. It then took us 20 minutes to find the stroller check-in, get all our junk unloaded, and awkwardly put the kids into the baby Ergo/Bjorn/backpack things. They felt so nice and swampy. We finally got to our seats in the lower level in left field. Ten seconds later, a foul ball landed ten feet away from us. That helped with the paranoia that the kids might get hit with a ball. The kids were pretty chill for five minutes, but then the stirring began, then the crying, and then the screaming.

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The whole experience was a bit of a circus. Thankfully, our dear friends, Brian and Caroline, were there to help us out. Occasionally, we were able to talk and sometimes we even got to watch the baseball game. Amanda had to pump some milk in a bathroom stall, which probably prompted some funny looks due to the unmistakable sound that little machine makes. The six of us spent about ten minutes sitting together, the other two-and-a-half hours were spent with one of us walking/bouncing/swaying the babies somewhere in the stadium.

It was awesome.

Yup, it was different. Yup, it was tiring. Yup, it was a hassle. Nope, our family isn’t going to a game again anytime soon. But, you know what, we got to do something we love with two little babies we desperately love. That’s a win. Plus, the Nationals won too.

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