Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

Archive for the category “Crazy Stories”

I Tried Single Parenting For A Week And Holy Cow It Was Awful

Just leave the kids with me, I said.  What could possibly go wrong?  I said…

This week, for the first time, I watched the kids while my wife headed back to the states after the loss of a dear friend.  In my world of constant travel and trials, it just so happened to be a week where I was home.  What follows is a no-kidding recap of how it all unraveled.  And boy did it ever unravel…

The Turnover:  Prior to her departure, the wife gave me lots of tips on how to keep the kids alive and thriving.  This is overwhelming because our kids are spoiled.  Exacerbating matters, I was only half listening, so I learned just enough to be dangerous.  For instance, I know that “Brody needs (insert something about 5mL of medicine),” and “Riley only eats (some kind of food) for lunch” and that I can’t forget about Jimmy’s homework.  Or something.    

Whatever, I got this.

Saturday:  Drop wife off at airport with no drama.  Solid.  Then take the boys to soccer.  Too easy.  

Then I take the boys to GameStop as a bribe to basically be good all week.  My thought was we could get a video game to share and enjoy.  Well, we get there and the oldest wants a Pokemon card set all for himself.  Our four y/o grabs the first thing he can find – a nerdy board game – and assures me that it’s what he has “always wanted.”  I should have seen this coming.   

That night, I take the kids to a free country concert by Hunter Hayes on base.  The boys waste no time whining about the noise and asking me “when’s it gonna be over?”  Little do they know they are hearing the pre-concert music, and the show hasn’t even started.  But they loved it…

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His favorite part of the concert

Sunday:  Wake up, play, eat cereal, and head to church.  Then we head home and eat Lunchables.  You might be wondering how I find time to serve such healthy meals.  Well, we had nachos for dinner so its not like we don’t have a cheat meal every now and then.

Monday:  This is the first school day, and I quickly realize how much this week is going to suck.  Evidently our four year old doesn’t have school today because he has a Parent-Teacher conference right smack in the middle of the workday.  Does our pre-schooler’s ability to play with blocks and markers warrant a quarterly meeting?  A text from my wife makes clear I’m supposed to go.     

My suspicions were confirmed when, after driving across town and re-arranging my entire day, I learn nothing more than our son is doing “great” in school.  Oh, great.  

That night, after soccer practice, a neighbor asks me if our family wants some of her extra Sloppy Joes.  I politely reply that I would love some “Sloppy Hoes.”  It was autocorrect, I promise.  I have neither the time nor the energy for Sloppy Hoes this week…  

Tuesday:  It’s Drug Free week, which means the kids get to wear a hat to school.  Ironically, today I will be litigating a case involving, you know, cocaine.  

Before any of this happens, I make lunch.  One wants a red apple, the other wants a banana.  One wants a PB&J, the other wants turkey – but only if its cut in the middle.  Even I know that the quality of one’s lunches can make or break their status as a cool parent.  

With lunch set, I take the older two to the bus and drop the youngest at his school so I can get to work to do, like, my job.  I’m freaking exhausted and it’s not even 8am.  

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That afternoon, the older kids have “early release” which means they hop off the bus at an even more inconvenient time than normal.  Upon arrival, they beg to go to the convenience store down the road.  I make one rule, and that is that they cannot buy candy.  Are we clear?  Crystal clear? Good.  

So of course they go and buy candy.  The ensuing interrogation yields several false official statements.  One tells me “I didn’t hear you when you said that,” and the other points to her brother and says he convinced her it was ok.  And you see, this is how the Bible begins.

Wednesday:  Standard morning chaos.  Then work.  Then soccer practice.  Neighbors brought us dinner the night before but we ate it all, so its cereal and Ramen noodles on the menu tonight.  And then of course they need dessert.  After all this, we do homework and get ready for bed.  And when it’s all over, it’s time to do dishes.  Actually, forget dishes I’m going to bed.  

Thursday:  Morning chaos.  Then go to work, which is really ramping up.  Then gymnastics across the island, then get home to finish the work I left before gymnastics.  Meanwhile, the kids want to play video games, and I have the audacity to recommend they go outside instead.  For this, my son declares it’s the “worst day of his life.”  

Welcome to tyranny, kids.  

Right about now is where I notice all my kids using the “S” word when talking about the pending weekend.  The “S” word is easily the ugliest, most dreadful word in my children’s vernacular.  If your children are reading this, please cover their eyes…

Sleep*ver: defined as neighborhood kids helping our kids turn into punks, flood the house with Legos, and not sleep.  We should really be calling these “awake-overs.” 

Friday:  The kids don’t have school.  It’s not a holiday, they apparently just don’t have school.  Because in Guam Friday is for partying.  

Anyway, I work from home early and then head into the office for a few hours while the kids roam the neighborhood doing who-knows-what.  Honestly, I just hope they have pants on.

At the office I make arrangements to fly to Hawaii on Sunday morning.  Mom gets home Monday night, so there’s a gap in kid coverage.  It’s all becoming rather stressful.  Just when I’m ready to tap out of this unique social experiment, I get the word: one of the kids has lice.  Holy sleep*ver!

I get home, treat the hair, and handle child’s fragile psychological state.  Good to go. Now I just need to put the entire house in trash bags Dexter-style, and then do 18 loads of laundry – all while trying not to convulse at the thought that there were actual bugs living in my kids’ hair.  

I pop on a movie and finish this hellacious night outside with a questionably large glass of wine.  I’m starting to get my wife…  

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Saturday:  Breakfast of champions is Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Then we get ready for soccer, which is a game of 21-questions.  Like, “where did you last remember having your jersey?” and “why do you not have shin guards?” and “WERE LATE WHY AREN’T YOU IN THE CAR ALREADY???”  Another Saturday in paradise.  

That evening the base is hosting a Halloween event, so the kids get to dress up in their costumes for the 18th time this month, and spend some time with their friends.  Of course, they’re only allowed to do this after they’ve had their dinner…

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On the way home I load the kids up with candy, and then remind them that I’m leaving in the morning and they will be staying with our neighbors for two days until mom gets back from the states.  Ok?  Ok?  

Suffice it to say, it was not ok.  “We talked about this, guys” I explained.  Say, where have I heard that phrase before??  Holy cow I’m becoming more like my wife with each passing second.  Anyway, I pull over to address the river of tears.

And this, right here, is why single parents have it so hard.  It’s not balancing household chores with deadlines at work, nor is it the moments when you just want to sit and veg out but can’t because a school project is due tomorrow.  It’s hardest when your kids are devastated and there’s no-one else to help – you just have to figure it out yourself.  

My wife just did this for over seven months while I was deployed.  Other parents out there have to do this, like, forever.  I did it for seven days.  I tip my cap to you, single parents.  You have my sympathy and admiration all at once.  

In truth, I am blessed beyond measure to have such happy, healthy children, and this week was precious… minus the lice, and some other things. 

As for my kids, I’m pretty sure they’re doing all their homework and eating well and enjoying their sleep*ver with the neighbors.  And if not, I really don’t care as long as they’re wearing pants.  

A final note to my wife: welcome home.  Now kindly make your way to the store because we desperately need more milk and cereal.  Also, I know I don’t need to tell you this, but…

Grab a bottle of wine while you’re at it.

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How I Darn Near Missed the Birth of our Newborn Son

In the military, if you show up on time, then you’re late.  Well, on February 28, 2013, my day began as typical Thursday at Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island.  But one frantic phone call, one delayed flight, two car rides, 420 miles and 10 chewed up fingernails later, I arrived at Fair Oaks Hospital in Fairfax, VA for the birth of our third child with just 10 minutes to spare.  Right on time.

I started getting text messages from my wife at 4:30am letting me know she couldn’t sleep and wanted to talk.  At that ungentlemanly hour, I don’t remember calling her back, but my call history says I did.   Truth is, I was tired that morning because I had labored hard the day before.  Little did I know my wife was in labor…

At 5:20am, I headed out to “Pain Before Breakfast” – Naval Justice School’s “super fun” weekly five mile run around Newport in the freezing cold.  After the run, I got back and immediately headed to class, and still hadn’t really talked to Jackie.  I figured if something was really wrong I would know about it.  Right?    

So.  Back at school, I sneak out during class to check up on Jackie, and the conversation goes like this:

Me: You alright? 

Jackie: Yea, whoa, uhh

(10 second pause…)

Jackie: OH-GOSH-I-GOTTA-CALL-YOU-BACK!

(Click)

Contractions can be such a conversation killer…

I had planned on going home that afternoon anyway, but after a few of these conversations I realized I had to get back immediately.  And shortly thereafter, I left class with perhaps the greatest excuse I have ever had: the birth of my child. 

On the way up to Providence Airport, I started thinking about my odds of making it for the delivery – something that was incredibly important to me.  They weren’t good, and a call from Jackie telling me to “hurry up” made them even worse.  It was at this point that I finally realized she was in labor, nearly seven hours after that whole process had begun. 

Upon arrival I parked, raced inside, and started working my magic to get on an earlier flight.  You could tell I was in a hurry cuz I parked in the garage instead of saving $3/day by parking in another county.  I told the airline reps that my wife was in labor and I needed to get back ASAP (and I may or may not have fumbled with my military ID for bonus sympathy points…).  I got the following responses:

– Southwest: “We don’t have a better flight.  If I were you, I’d go talk to the other airlines.” 

– United:  “We have an earlier flight, but it’s full.  Try US Air.” 

– US Air: “We have a flight, but it’s only 20 minutes earlier and it will cost you $450 to get on it.”  

Uhh, what’s behind door number four? 

Bottom line was: I was stuck on my flight.  And when I got to the gate, I discovered my flight was delayed by 30 minutes.  And two hours later when I finally land in Baltimore, the stewardess tells us there’s a plane in our gate, which means more delays.  My unborn child, in the meantime, is not delaying.

As soon as they opened the doors to the plane, I raced to the front.  One lady, with a tone of disappointment and speaking on behalf of everyone around her, shouts “hey you’re not the only one with places to go!”  Opportunistically, I paused, calmly looked her straight in the eye, and said: “my wife is in labor right now and I’m trying to get to the delivery room… now where are you going?” 

Got em!        

So anyway, I’m at BWI airport, which is a solid hour and change from the hospital without traffic (and there’s always traffic).  I get a call from Jackie’s phone.  It’s her friend Kristen, calling to tell me that the doctor needed to perform a C-section in 30 minutes.   There was no hope: I wasn’t gonna make it on time.  At this point I just prayed that Jackie and our baby would be ok. 

Jackie’s dad picked me up and we headed down a route that those in the Washington, D.C. area avoid with everything they can: 95 to 495 to Route 66.  At rush hour, it’s like being sentenced to three separate deaths.  Kill me. 

I started letting my family know that the baby was about to be born and that I wasn’t gonna make it.  But after a while, I noticed traffic was surprisingly not that bad.  I braced for the inevitable sea of red brake lights that epitomize the DC beltway, but it didn’t come.  Weird, I thought. 

Then, a glimmer of hope: a text message from Jackie’s phone.  “How far away?”  She had been trying to stall this delivery with all her might.  I was easily 35 minutes away, but I told her I would be there “20 minutes max.”  So yea, I lied about how far away I was.  BUT MY WIFE DOES IT TO ME ALL THE TIME!   

At some point I got word that the doctor was “no kidding” gonna deliver this child in 20 minutes, and that Jackie had already headed back to the OR (yea, thats right, I say “OR” instead of “Operating Room” cuz I’ve seen a few episodes of Greys Anatomy…).  My driver pulled some James Bond stuff (while obeying ALL local traffic laws, of course…) and got me to the hospital 10 minutes later.  When we pulled up, I sprinted through the lobby without applying hand sanitizer.  There was no time to disinfect! 

I got to room 313 on the 3rd Floor, where Jackie’s friend Kristen briefed me on what was going on.  With just under 10 minutes til go-time, I changed into what can best be described as an albino clown costume, and headed over to the OR myself.  

Lets do this thing!

Lets do this thing!

As I waited to go in, an air of panic suddenly began to fill the hallway.  Jackie’s doctor needed to come IMMEDIATELY.  Apparently the baby’s heart rate had dropped way below normal levels.  “Heart rate 56” some nurse declared.  When I was at one of the appointments, this baby’s heart rate was in the 180s, so at that point I knew that things weren’t going well. 

I was escorted into the OR and grabbed the hand of a tearful mother in fear of the worst.  At that moment I realized why God had parted the Red Sea for me that day – so I could be there with Jackie at that very moment.  I told her it would be ok and that she was doing great.  I then prayed that things would actually be ok.

It took a while, but eventually they pulled our baby out.  I didn’t even know if it was a boy or girl, and at this point, all I noticed was that it wasn’t making any noise, and it looked kinda blue.  Time stopped while I begged this baby to cry.  “Please just cry!”  I tell ya, 5 seconds never went by so slowly. 

And then it happened: a big wail.  And boy, what a relief it was that the baby was ok.  And speaking of boy, a quick glance “down there” and I realized I was the father of another son.  Nice!  His temporary name was “Boy.” 

It's a dude, trust me.

It’s a dude, trust me.

For about nine months, Jackie and I had been calling this baby “Pat” because I wanted to be surprised by the sex.  Jackie, who hates surprises, was shocked that I never wanted to know.    It was killing her that she had a secret and couldn’t tell it to me – which naturally I loved.    

So I’m standing there filming everything at this delivery and out of nowhere some nurse hands me this creepy set of scissors.  She then gives me the green light to cut the slimy, odd-looking “umbilical cord” poking out of my son’s belly.  A few reiterations of “no, it’s ok” later, and I had earned myself the look of death from the nurse in Operating Room 2.  It got a little awkward in there, I’m not gonna lie… 

From here, they took the baby and me (but not Jackie) to another room in Labor and Delivery, where, in theory, parents get to enjoy the first precious moments of a child’s life.  But that’s not actually what happens… 

See, almost any father will tell you that their primary concern while the baby takes its first breaths of fresh air is maximizing the potential of social media, email, text message, and other forms of electronic communication.  In other words, this is not a Kodak moment – it’s a Smartphone moment.  

So I’m firing away pics and posts and at some point Jackie gets wheeled in.  We immediately begin negotiating names.  This too was awkward because nurses were hovering over us and pretending not to listen in on our conversation.   I wanted the boy’s name to be “Brody.”  I mean sure, that’s the name of a terrorist on the show Homeland, but he’s actually a really nice and sensitive terrorist…      

Here’s the simple truth: Jackie wanted “Brady,” but I can’t stand the New England Patriots.  So we agreed on Brody.   And I think it’s the perfect name for him.   Thus far, nicknames include: Bro, Bro-ham, Brode Master, Sergeant Brody, and Brodo Baggins.  Please help me add to this list – it will only make our “Bromance” that much stronger.    

After two days in the hospital, we came home and introduced Jimmy and Riley to their new younger brother.  They were excited, and Riley wasted no time initiating her brother in the family hierarchy. 

"I'll take this"

“I’ll take this”

Now I’m back at Naval Justice School, where I am constantly thinking about my still-recovering wife and always-crazy children.  Thankfully, she’s surrounded by awesome people who have been preparing meals, cleaning our house, and chasing our toddlers everywhere.  Heck, perhaps Jimmy and Riley had me trained to chase down our newest child from Naval Justice School to Fair Oaks Hospital in just a few hours. 

To think:  ten minutes later, and I would have missed it. 

Would have missed this too...

Would have missed this too…

Chronicle of a Conservative Beatdown

“I don’t normally post about politics, but…”  Whoa there.  Dangerous first words.  Typically when I see this on Facebook, its followed by some irrational, vomit-inducing political rant that I wish I had never seen.  Well, I’m about to make the same mistake.  But its election night, darn it.  And my team is about to get their butts kicked.  Again.  How can that be???

I had an early indication that Romney would lose when I showed up at Greenbrier West Elementary School at 6am to help pass out those annoying sample ballots they shove in your face before you go in to vote.  Yea, that was me. 

Anyway, I show up at the polling place and I note a stark contrast in campaign swag: the Republicans are giving out left-over Halloween candy, and the Dems are giving out Starbucks and donuts.  Early evidence of a strong Democratic ground game. 

Before I go any further, I note that I consider myself a fairly reasonable conservative Republican with occasional moderate tendencies.  For instance, I can’t stand where this country is headed, but at the same time I don’t think it’s anyone’s business that the President plays golf on the weekends (in fact I think its cool).  And I could not care less what President Obama’s law school transcript looks like.  Seriously people. 

And then there’s my wife.  Her political views range from extreme Republican to borderline fascism.  Like, when I say I think global warming is legit, I’m dismissed as a “FREAKING LIBERAL!” and the conversation abruptly ends.  So yea, as much as I love her, we don’t talk politics very often.

Anyway.  I’m volunteering at the polls and some clown walks up and starts planting Obama yard signs all over the place.  Part of me wants to tell him how ridiculous he looks thinking this will make any difference whatsoever in the outcome of the election, but then I realize that I am here handing out flyers that will also probably have no impact whatsoever on the outcome of this election.  So it’s fair game. 

Then he looks at me and says “DOES GOP STAND FOR GREED OVER THE PEOPLE?!?!”  Note: this is how political nerds trash-talk.  In a moment of vulnerability, I smiled and said nothing.  Sweet comeback.  This exchange is yet another indication of a strong Obama ground game. 

As I continue to hand out sample ballots, I am gently reminded by the election official that I am standing closer than 40 feet to the door of the polling place – a big time no-no. If I were a Black Panther, Fox News would be all up in my grill right now.  But fortunately the networks took it easy on me.  Phew.

After my shift (6am – 8:30am), I vote and head to work.  And with all the Facebook posts about the election, my productivity levels reached March Madness status. Yep, I was glued to my smartphone. 

And here’s a statistical breakdown of what I saw:

–          % of people who told me I need to exercise my right to vote: like, 100. 

–          # of sappy posts about democracy: like, 80. 

–          # of “the world is gonna end no matter who gets elected” posts: 19.

–          # of “this is why I voted for my candidate” rants: too many to count. 

And yet I couldn’t get enough of this stuff.  I had spent a whole year “unfriending” hyper-chatty liberals and “ignoring” people who insist on debating abortion and gay marriage on Facebook for this very day.  I take a moment to thank God and Mark Zuckerberg for the “unfollow” feature right about now. 

Note:  I know conservatives are quite vocal on Facebook too.  This is a double-standard I’m strangely ok with.

Anyway, here’s how my work day went:  Check CNN, check Fox News, check Facebook, work for a few minutes, check MSNBC, check Facebook.  And then repeat a million times.  

Heading home, I get the same sick feeling in my stomach that I got the day ObamaCare was passed.  Oh man.  This is really happening. 

Knowing I was in for a crazy night (and that Jackie would be at Bible study for a few hours), I invited my mother-in-law to come watch the coverage with me.  Noone wants to die alone. 

So it’s me, the kids (obligatory mention of the fact that they are super cute), and my mother-in-law watching the coverage on CNN and drinking heavily – adults, wine; babies, milk.  CNN’s John King is indicating that it’s not looking good for Romney.  I hate hearing it, so I flip to Fox News, where I know they will be telling me what I really want to hear: Romney still has a chance.  Phew.  I’m safe here. 

Let me take this opportunity to say I’m glad I have a few years before I have to explain the Electoral College to my kids.***

*** That, and the offside penalty in soccer. 

But for now, I know how the Electoral College works, and I see that it’s working against Romney.  So even though it means absolutely nothing, I take irrational solace in the fact that Romney just won the state of Alabama.  I’m getting desperate here.

At this point it’s about 9pm, and small communities in CO, VA, FL and OH are getting some serious face time.  A friend points out that FoxNews has called Indiana for Romney, but CNN has not.  This is why conservatives like me keep coming back to Fox.  In their suspicious “Fair and Balanced” way, they comfort us.

Back to CNN, where John King is furiously pressing buttons on his fancy electronic map.  He wants to tell us Obama won Florida, but he won’t quite do it.  He wants to tell me Obama is gonna win Ohio, but he won’t quite do it.  I feel like I’m playing Mortal Combat and have reached that point where the fight is lost, and all that’s left to do is brace for my opponent’s awesome finishing move. Now just FINISH HIM!

Back to Facebook, where my liberal friends are launching their gitty posts, and my fellow conservatives are strangely silent.  Kick me.  I need to avert my eyes from my Newsfeed before I start a Facebook genocide of all my liberal friends. ***

*** Note: perhaps this is what it felt like for my liberal fraternity brothers when I woke them up chanting “GOP!” after the 2004 election was called at about 3am.  Come to think of it, yea, I probably deserve this. 

So after consuming several hours of election coverage (and several glasses of wine), I call it a night.  If this were a Monday Night Football game and my Fantasy outcome were still undecided, I would not be heading upstairs.  But this election stings the nostrils, and I can’t take it anymore.  The networks hadnt called yet, so I did: you win, Obama.  You apparently always do. 

Like it or not, the race for 2016 starts now.  And I hope the next Election Day doesn’t hurt as much as this one did. 

But if it does, rest assured I’ll be sticking with Fox News… where the coverage is Fair, Balanced, and Comforting to a wounded conservative.   

 

I feel you bro

THE POLITICAL VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THIS POST ARE MINE AND MINE ONLY, AND NOT THOSE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE. I ALSO NOTE THAT I AM NOT ON ACTIVE DUTY, WHICH MEANS THE WORK I DID AT THE POLLS WAS PERFECTLY LAWFUL.  See “2012 DoD Public Affairs Guidance for Political Campaigns and Elections” Section 9.4.2.  And yes, I am definitely a lawyer now.

My First Five Weeks In The Military…

GET ON YOUR FACE RIGHT NOW!

Apparently this means get ready to do pushups.  It’s “zero four thirty” and I have lots to learn today in sunny Newport, RI.  Indeed, we’re just getting started…

UP! DOWN! UP! DOWN…

A few questions go through my mind: am I getting yelled at by a woman or a man?  How the heck did I get here?  And most importantly: am I wearing underwear? 

Back to reality: now we’re doing something called 6-90s.  It’s where you lie on your back with your feet 6 inches above the ground, and raise them to a 90 degree angle.  And repeat.  Wait, is this a p90x move?!?! 

It was Day Three.  I think.  Allow me to walk you through the remainder of our average day:

After the abrupt wake-ups, we would go outside to “PT” (which means physical training) for an hour.  This involved running or calisthenics, or some combination of the two.  We also did an insane amount of stretching.  Like, for every minute we worked out, we probably spent two minutes stretching.  This was weird.  I mean, who actually stretches these days? 

Then we ate: 15 minutes, no talking.  And no “skylarking” (looking around) either!  Ahh, you gotta love military words.   Here’s a few more: bulkhead (wall), ladder well (stairs), and Roger that (which according to Urban Dictionary means “I understand”).  Roger that?

Then came an hour of marching.  This was pure comedy. 

At a philosophical level, marching in the Navy makes absolutely no sense.  I mean, sailors work on ships – a place with very little marching room.  Add to that the fact that I am in a class of “staff corps” officers (doctors, lawyers, nurses, nuclear reactors, etc).  What you get is some sloppy marching. 

“Right face!”  “About face!”  “Center face!”  All this means something to those who have marched before.  I was new to all of it.  And I sucked at it…

Then came a period of time known as “hygiene.” As in, “you have three-five minutes for hygiene.”  Here was where we would make our beds (a brutal chore for someone who hates making the bed), shower, get the uniform on, and be ready to go.  The men’s bathroom was like a scene out of Top Gun… only with far fewer 6 pack abs, and no time to air dry. 

Then we sat through PowerPoint presentations.  All. Day. Long. No caffeine, and very few breaks.  I wasn’t ready for this.  Sleeping was not allowed (and strictly enforced), and we would be tested on all of this.  I missed law school!

We also had a drill instructor.  He was then one who whipped us into shape and taught us what we needed to know.  Importantly, he was the one who determined how long we would have to stand at attention.  In case you’ve never done it, standing at attention is really uncomfortable after a while. 

Note: If you are a Marine or Navy Seal or something like that, please don’t judge me.

In the evenings we would eat again.  Same rules: no skylarking, no talking, and 15 minutes to eat – I was usually done in 5.  I would spend the next 10 minutes trying to avoid eye contact with my friends – something that would always cause me to start laughing.  Oh, and another mealtime rule I forgot to mention: no laughing. 

Then we would march for another hour.  I’ve said my peace about Navy marching.  So anyway…

Then we would head into our “House” (think dorms) and clean, do laundry, study, or workout.  Don’t tell my wife this, but I actually got good at handling my own laundry.  Now shh!!!

Then, our company (54 officers) sang songs together before bed.  We recited the classics: Sailor’s Creed, Anchors Aweigh, and the Marine’s Hymn.  We sounded terrible, but we would improve as time went on. 

And that about wraps up the average day for five weeks.  Not boot camp, not summer camp, but somewhere right in between.  Before I move on, allow me once more to emphasize how BRUTAL the PowerPoints were – and I work for a consulting firm!  Ok, now I’m done… 

Some of the highlights included:

–          Going aboard the USS Michael Murphy – the newest destroyer in the Navy.  That ship alone could take out most countries.  One word comes to mind: ‘Merica!

–          Learning how to make a flotation device out of navy trousers.  Look out Bear Grylls!

–          Going out on the town in my summer white uniform and being thanked for my service – of three weeks!

–          Pushup contests.

–          Letters from home.

–          Helping save a fake ship (the USS Buttercup – a very manly vessel) from sinking

–          Singing “Tearin Up My Heart” to a crowd of locals on Karaoke night

–          Raising the flag in uniform

–          Spending close to $2,000 on my uniform (no discount double-check!)

–          Getting the shortest haircut of probably my entire life

–          Being required to say things like “Kill!” all the time. **

**  To demonstrate how much fun I had saying “kill,” I will be using the word as often as possible throughout the remainder of this post.   Get ready…

Of course, I had it easy compared to Jackie, who was at home with the babies – two born, one unborn.  Closing out the first trimester of her pregnancy with two stubborn 16-month olds was undoubtedly exhausting.  Bottom line: my wife is amazing (cheap brownie points I know, but I will take them).  Kill!

Fortunately, Jackie, her mom, and the kids came up for my graduation.  I went to see the babies at the hotel room and my worst fear came true: they didn’t recognize me.  In fact, they were scared of me.  Perhaps this was because my hair was short, my boots made me stand about 2 inches taller, and I was wearing my Navy fatigues.  Still, it was a punch in the gut. 

It took them a few minutes to recognize me, and then all became right with the world…

I needed this

 It was so awesome to see them.  It was also an ice cold glass of water to the face: welcome back to being dad!  Indeed, at the graduation reception while most of my friends were drinking and socializing, Jackie and I chased the babies around the ballroom.  The entire time.  “Nice to meet you – oh, Riley, no, no, no, come back!” I must have had this conversation six times. 

Kill!

Even better: Jimmy ran up to the Commanding Officer of Naval Training Command, Captain Kemper, and hit him in the back of the leg.  Yep, that’s my son scarfing down meatballs and hitting the Commanding Officer. 

Note: one day, he’ll wonder why he didn’t get into the Naval Academy…

The night before graduation we were allowed to sleep off base so long as we were back at 0430.  I slept with Jackie, my mother in law, and the babies in the hotel room and got a full 45 minutes of sleep.  But it was worth it to see them again.  At least that’s what I kept telling myself…

The next night I was home, sleeping in my very own “rack” (where hospital corners aren’t required).  From here, I wait to get my bar exam results, at which time I will begin fulfilling my four year commitment to the Navy JAG Corps.  I’m thankful to God for getting me where I am today; excited about the adventures in store; and honored to begin my military career.  As they say: Anchors Aweigh!  

And oh yea… KILL!!!

 

Jimmy’s doing a little “PT” of his own!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I Survived the Virginia Bar Exam

“Your time begins now.” 

And it began.  The test I had anticipated taking since high school. The test I had been studying for day and night for two agonizing months.   The anticipation was now over, and the most important test of my life had begun.  

I suppose some background about the exam will help:

First, the cost of the VA bar exam seriously makes you feel like youre paying off the mob.  I mean, they make you pay $400 to take the test, another $500 for a “character evaluation” (where they basically just harass you about every speeding ticket you have ever gotten), and then another $150 to take the test on the laptop.  But wait, there’s more:  $3,200 for bar prep classes, and a solid month off of work.  It’s robbery. 

A few other things about the test: its two days long, you have to wear a suit and tie, and it’s in Roanoke, VA.  So…yea. 

Anyway, the doors to the test opened at 8:00am, and when I got there just before 8, the place was packed.  Law students are so predictable.  They file us into the building like cattle and next thing I know I’m in a room the size of a huge airplane hangar with about 1,200 other students.  I set up my computer, went to the bathroom, sat in my seat waiting for the test to begin, and then headed back to the bathroom.  I probably went to the bathroom a solid 8 times. 

Finally, some guy stands up at the podium and tells us to take our seats.  And he certainly doesn’t lighten the mood… 

“If you leave the testing room, you will be disqualified.  If you don’t fill in the bubbles to your identification sheet correctly, you will be disqualified….”  One rule they are particularly sensitive about: cell phones.  They make it very clear that they are bad, bad, bad.  If you have one, youre dead. 

I started praying, but at this point I’m feeling very nervous.  Like, Tom Hanks in the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan nervous.***

*** Only, I’m taking the bar exam and he was storming the beach at Normandy.  But other than that…

You get three hours to answer five essays.  A break for lunch, then the process repeats in the afternoon.  That’s Day One.  There is very little downtime.  And so when the proctor tells us that our time has begun, I get right to it. 

About an hour and a half into the exam, something happens.  Some dude is making sounds.  Weird sounds.  He’s a row away.  His hands lock up, and the sounds get louder.  I’m no doctor, but my diagnosis was immediate: THIS DUDE IS HAVING A FREAKING SEIZURE!   

Slowly, he leans over in his chair and falls face first into the ground.  Blood splatters all over the place, and his face turns blue.  Then his eyes shut.  I’m preparing myself for the reality that I might watch this guy die right in front of me.  Right in the middle of the bar exam. 

I screamed out: “SOMEONE CALL 911!”  It then dawned on me that I just asked 1,200 people WITHOUT cell phones to make a phone call.  How heroic of me. 

Shortly thereafter, some guy runs up.  He’s a fellow test-taker, but he’s also apparently a doctor.  He takes control of the situation.   I look around and see over a thousand people continuing to work on their exam, and I’m standing here helplessly watching this guy and trying to think of ways to be helpful. 

About 10 minutes later, paramedics arrived.  Realizing there was nothing I could do at this point, and knowing that the clock was ticking, I sat back down. 

I had never figured I would have to mentally shift from watching someone have a terrible seizure to diving into personal jurisdiction under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  But there I was, plugging away and trying my best to tune out the medics while they do their thing.  I knew he was going to be ok when I heard…

Paramedic: “do you know where you are?”

Guy Who Just Had A Seizure: “THE TEST!”

Anyway, I scrambled through the remaining hour or so.  I was short on time, but I derived some serious Bar Exam skills from one of my favorite shows: Chopped. 

See, on Chopped, the biggest mistake contestants make is that they try to make the perfect dish, and end up not getting mandatory ingredients on the plate – a total dagger.  Rather, to win Chopped, often you just need to get something on the plate, even if it’s terrible.  So when I was typing total nonsense into my keyboard, I had to just keep telling myself to “get it on the plate.”  And heck yea I did. 

When we came back for round two, the test proctor started going through his panic-inducing rules again, but this time I was prepared – I stared at a picture of the kids until the test began.   Much better. 

A few hours later, I walked out of that test feeling fairly confident.  A cold beer and some chips did wonders.  The hard part was over, and I slept like a dog that night. 

Day Two is what’s referred to as “The Multistate.”  It’s a 200 question multiple choice test covering some of the basics of the law: evidence, constitutional law, criminal law, property, contracts, and a few more.  By now, the mood is much less tense.  I was cracking bar exam jokes.  They were funny?   

Oh, and good news: apparently the guy with the seizure was out of the hospital. 

I ripped through the first half of the test with no problem.  I guess after you take a test and watch someone have a seizure, then any other subsequent test it bound to seem anticlimactic.  But anticlimactic is good. 

One thing I will say is that on several occasions I found myself using the same letter choice four times in a row.  And nothing drives a test-taker insane quite like filling in the same bubble three or four times consecutively – especially when it’s the letter “D.”  It’s cruel and unusual. 

The second half of the test was tough.  Not only because I was doing some serious guessing, but also because I was counting down the number of questions I would have to answer as a law student.  20, 10, 5, 1.  Done.  Eyoooo!

Overall, the experience was one I will never forget.  I’m not sure if I passed, and won’t know til October.  But the important thing is that I survived – something I wasn’t so sure about for a while there. 

So here’s to hoping that what I put on the plate won’t get me, well, Chopped. Cheers!

Part Two: Beer and a Box of Pregnancy Tests

This is the second installment of a two-part story on how my wife and I lost our first baby, and fought like crazy to have another one.  Read “Part One” of the story here.  

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So there I was, beer in hand.  And there she was, pregnancy test in hand – apparently it was positive. 

We were definitely skeptical.  Even though all three pregnancy tests showed up the exact same way, Jackie and I figured there may have been something wrong with the box.  So, we marched back to the same store, grabbed more of the same pregnancy tests, and paid the exact same cashier.  Umm…awkward!   

It took about five tests to finally convince us that Jackie was pregnant.  I was a giddy school-girl.  But I was also very cautious.  “Oh please God let us keep this one!” was our constant prayer, and we took it seriously.  Please, please, please let us keep this one. 

Meanwhile, we were determined to keep the pregnancy our little secret.  We agreed: absolutely NOBODY can know about this until the second trimester!  Nobody… except some of our close friends.  And some family members.  Aaaaand some people from our church.  When you continually find yourself saying “but you can’t tell anyone…” you know your secret is doomed.  Well, ours was doomed. 

Of course, there are ways of telling people the news without *actually* telling them.  I mean, you can only order so many lemonades at an open bar wedding before people (like my dad) become suspicious.  And as a general rule, if you are a woman near 30 and refuse alcohol in any social setting for any reason, the pregnancy flags start flying.  It’s science. 

Either way, pretty much everyone knew about the pregnancy within two weeks.  Secrecy fail.

From the beginning, I enjoyed following the progress of our baby.  Indeed, I had a “pregnancy calendar” set to Jackie’s due date that I checked daily.  And while I still have no idea what a baby’s “crown to rump length” means, I was sure excited that it was getting bigger.  Our little tadpole was growing up!

I was particularly excited about Jackie’s first sonogram.  I couldn’t be there in person, but I got one heck of a phone call: “there’s two of them!” 

Two tadpoles.

Random side-note:  I see lots of “LOLs”, but am often suspicious that no one on the other end is laughing out loud.  For this reason, I hereby propose we add “ALOL” – or, “actually laughing out loud” to our online vernacular.  And I’m about to be the first person to ever use it in a sentence…

So, I get the news, and all I could do was ALOL.  Twins?  Really? 

Throughout the pregnancy, Jackie was a trooper.  Since she was carrying twins, she was deemed “high risk,” which meant constant doctor appointments, endless contractions, daily monitoring sessions, and bed rest.  I’m no expert on pregnancies, but I have seen the movie “Juno” and thus feel minimally qualified in saying that this was not a normal one by any stretch of the imagination.

That said, Jackie did go through many of the same experiences other pregnant women go through.  For instance, one day I got a frantic phone call from what I thought was a heroin addict.  Turns out it was my wife.  She needed a cheeseburger from Five Guys and she needed it RIGHT NOW!!!

The months flew by for me.  Working full time and going to school at night will do that.  I went to as many doctor visits as I could, and was amazed by how many other fathers went to them as well.  Like most men, seeing them move around for the first time was the coolest experience of them all.  Our little girl, “Baby B,” was already throwing punches.  And our little man, “Baby A,” was already taking them.  It’s been 13 months, and I can tell you nothing has changed.

When we had free time, we watched the TV show “Lost.”  All 121 episodes.  That show was awesome, and Jimmy’s name came close to being “Sawyer.” **

**Actually that’s not true at all.  I totally just made that up.

Speaking of Lost, there I was one morning studying for my upcoming Evidence Law final… totally lost.  Jackie’s due date was over a month away, and I get a call: “it’s happening this afternoon.”  The first thing that popped into my head was that their birthday would be on Cinco de Mayo… LUCKY!  In the meantime, I was told to “keep studying” (a downright laughable order).  I had to do something productive, so I moved the lawn instead.  I also cleaned up a little bit around the house and re-arranged some of our furniture.  I was basically nesting. 

The C-section itself was rather anti-climactic.  I mean, this is supposed to be one of my life’s most beautiful moments and here I am staring into a strange, creepy operating room.  I went in with camera in hand and sat down.  Minutes later, both babies were born.  It was so bizarre.  And instead of saying something meaningful, I just asked questions like “is all that blood normal?” Useless.  Oh, and Jackie was totally high from her epidural.  So to recap, we have a useless dad and a stoned mom.  Great start. 

Picture 9 nurses and 1 doctor all scrambling to care for our babies, and me sitting there wondering what I’m gonna post on Facebook.  That was our delivery room. 

I knew one thing: those babies were tiny.  4 pounds, something ounces.  Out of nowhere, a nurse handed baby Jimmy to me.  As happy as I was to finally meet him, I desperately wanted the nurse to take him back before I dropped him.  Indeed, holding a newborn baby is far more responsibility than a man like myself should bear.  Heck I shouldn’t even be allowed to hold a cell phone!     

And then nurse placed Riley in my other hand.  I’m pretty sure I blacked out for the next 30 seconds… 

Anyway.  Those babies spent a while in the “NICU” (where newborn babies go for intensive care).  Neither of them were breathing well, and Jimmy wasn’t eating.  Seeing my daughter in an incubator and my son with a feeding tube in his mouth was hard – my first experience as a helpless parent.  That was the moment when it *truly* hit: I was a father.  Holy cow.    

Somewhere in there, my sister flew in town and I took my evidence final.  For all I know I could have killed a man, too.  It’s all a blur… 

Eight days later, Jimmy and Riley were healthy enough to come home.  Finally, the page of our lives that was marked by the loss of our first baby had been turned.  What a mountain we climbed. 

Without a doubt, adjusting to lack of sleep, crying babies and diaper disasters has been challenging.  But know this: we count our blessings daily.  We know what a miracle it is just to bring a child into this world, and our hearts melt for those who are trying desperately to experience that miracle as well.     

God doesn’t promise everybody that they will get to have a child of their own, but He does promise us life through Jesus Christ – the child He lost.  God was graceful to give us both.  This is His awesome story of trial and triumph. 

It’s one that ends with Jackie and me holding two healthy, beautiful babies… and one that, oddly enough, began with me holding a case of beer and a box of pregnancy tests.  

His awesome story indeed. 

Part One: Beer and a Box of Pregnancy Tests

Not too often does a man find himself holding a case of Bud Light and a box of E.P.T.s. But there I was.  And this was one of those days.  Does it get any more sketchy than this?  And more importantly, why the heck were these two things in my hands? 

I can easily explain the booze: I was out of town for a wedding and looking to stock up.  The pregnancy tests; however, are gonna be a bit harder to explain.  But I’ll try… 

In January of 2009, my wife told me that a pregnancy test she had just taken was positive (which means pregnant).  Being the skeptic I am, I didn’t believe it.  Jokingly, I told her I was “throwing the red flag,” and that we would need a review from the booth (or in this case, a blood test from the doctor) to confirm the ruling on the field.

Clearly, I had been watching way too much football…  

For the next few days, I tried to put it out of my head, and pretty much did.  Until I got “the call.”  I kid you not, I pick up the phone and the first thing I hear is: “the ruling on the field stands.”  Oh boy.

“Ok, I’m on my way home.” 

Needless to say the pregnancy was a total shocker.  At the time, I was working an intense Pentagon job, and just completed my first semester of law school.  I mean, I was hoping for a little more time before this all went down.  Jackie, then 28, had always dreamed of raising a family.  Recently, she had begun giving me the full court press on having a baby…   

Constantly, I was reminded that my wife’s “biological clock was ticking…”  Translation: YOU BETTER GIVE ME A BABY SOON!  But neither of us figured it would be *this* soon. 

The sun was setting, and that biological clock was ticking!

Well, I was biologically-clocked right in the face.  And my first order of business was to tell my friends.  I mean, A BABY??? Oh they’re gonna love this…  I told everyone: family, friends, strangers.  Everyone had to hear this hilarious news. 

And then one day, suddenly, it became not so hilarious. 

Everyone has a few blink-of-an-eye moments characterized by the instant realization that life as they know it is about to change.  Well, this was one of those moments.  Exiting the bathroom, my wife dropped to her knees.  Without saying a word, her tearful eyes told me all I needed to know: our baby was gone.  Panic, shock, horror, disbelief, and tragedy were among thousands of bricks that fell on us all at once. 

Days became weeks, and weeks became months, and I gradually moved on with my life.  Jackie didn’t.  She blamed herself.  She was embarrassed.  In her eyes, she had failed the most important job she had ever been given.    

Meanwhile, our friends started getting pregnant, and that was really hard.  Mother’s Day came along, and that was nearly unbearable.  Father’s Day was hard, too.  EVERY FREAKING DAY WAS HARD!!! 

“Why did this happen to us?” was a question I was constantly expected to answer.  But I had no good answers. 

“I just wish you could understand,” she pleaded. But her wish didn’t come true – I never understood.  I mean, I knew God was in control, but I sure didn’t know what the heck He was doing.  

Months later, we began trying to have another baby.  Unfortunately, as soon as we started trying, it seemed like EVERYONE was getting pregnant.  Their stories were all similar: “oh-my-gosh-we-got-pregnant-the-first-month-we-tried!” 

Oh did you?   

Months and months of trying led to nothing.  People who knew our situation either avoided the topic altogether, or approached it very delicately.   It was becoming the elephant in the room.  I mean, we were trying so hard… and we were praying super-nicely, too!  But all we heard was silence.   

God?  You gonna give us a baby?  Bueller?

Nothing.  And every time we thought our prayers had been answered, a pregnancy test would rebuke us.  “Not this month,” my wife would say.  Couples struggling to get pregnant know that phrase well… 

People started coming out of the woodwork telling us their stories about how they coped with infertility – a word I absolutely hate using.  We read bible verses about women like Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist), who miraculously got pregnant.  But the angel Gabriel was nowhere to be found, and as far as having a baby was concerned, I was becoming a Doubting Tom. 

After 16 exhausting months of trying, we surrendered.  We needed a break, and began to realize that God’s timing wasn’t in line with ours.  This resignation was strangely comforting.  For the first time in years, my wife and I just began looking forward to just hanging out together as friends.  An out-of-town wedding was the perfect venue – finally, a relaxing weekend.  Hence the beer… 

But Jackie grabbed a box of pregnancy tests as well, just to be sure.  I mean, there was pretty much no chance there was a baby in there, but we were planning on having a few drinks that night and by this point we had already bought so many pregnancy tests that it had almost become a habit.  So why not.  

And there they both were, sitting in my hands.  

Naturally, I made my wife pay for them.  I mean, beer and pregnancy tests?  I wouldn’t be surprised if protective services came in and grabbed me right there!  We got back to the hotel room and Jackie went through the motions of yet another awkward test.  A mere formality. 

I had already cracked a Bud Light.  And then I saw Jackie crack a big smile…

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