Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

Archive for the tag “parenthood”

“I Do Not Have Gas!” And Other Highlights From Our Epic Trip to Korea

Seoul, Korea is an amazing place where strangers give your kids candy on the train and in no way is it creepy.  The people are genuinely nice… and fascinated by white kids.  Ours played their part well.  

I note that Seoul is in South, vice North, Korea.  For the three months that led up to this trip a  certain member of my family may have accidentally mixed up these two countries and told her friends we were going to “North Korea.”  Slight mix up.  

The trip was mostly amazing.  The kids gave us their fair share of “this is boring” and “when can we go back to the hotel.” Fortunately we combated this with new toys, orange sodas, and cake for lunch.  

Here’s a breakdown of our epic week in Korea: 

Day One: Korean War Museum  

On the first day we went to the Korean War Museum.  I’m not much of a museum guy, but this place has real planes, tanks, and boats all over it.  The kids wanted to be in all kinds of pictures while climbing on all kinds of historically-preserved war artifacts.  

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They also insisted on taking some pictures themselves.  Either this will need more practice or our youngest got a great picture of the two people he cares about the most…

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For lunch, we went authentic and ordered pizza.  

We also went to a market where a woman who didn’t speak english communicated to us through a translator app.  At one point in the conversation, she held her phone up which proudly declared “I do not have gas!”  I can only hope thats what she was actually trying to tell us.  

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Hooray for no Gas! 

It didn’t take long to discover that Koreans drive like legit maniacs.  Its not a stereotype, its just a fact.  Traffic lights seem to be more like “suggestions,” and even those don’t really apply to taxis and buses.  And I’ve concluded that people on mopeds in Korea are hoping to die because they commonly drive full speed into crowded intersections without regard for their safety.  Or anything.  

Day Two: Gyeongbokung Palace, Seoul Tower, and River Cruise 

On the second day we went big.  First, we went to this Korean Palace which dates back to the 1300s.  We didn’t take a guided tour, and I didn’t actually read much of the brochure, so I cannot tell you much about the palace other than it looks really, really cool.

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It didn’t take long for the kids to start complaining about how they were bored, hot, and anxious to get back.  On our way out, a group of Koreans asked us to be in a video where we all said “welcome to Seoul.”  I’m still hoping to become YouTube famous, so naturally I agreed.    

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For lunch, we really channeled our inner-Koreans and ate pizza.  At the exact same pizza place we went to the day before.  Gettin real cultured.  

In the afternoon we went to Seoul Tower, which offers the best views of Seoul in town.  We hitched a ride to the top.  They charged us about $30 for the whole family, and frankly I would have paid whatever they asked cuz it’s a ridiculously long way up.  

While up there we ran into some women who wanted pictures with the kids.  Why of course…  

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That night, we went on a Han River Cruise, where you can see the Seoul skyline at night and then watch fireworks.  We almost missed the cruise, and everyone was super tired.  But we held it together (literally) and had a blast (figuratively).  

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This is what the end of a day of tourism with kids looks like…

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Day Three: The Zoo. 

I don’t like zoos.  There, I said it.  Zoos are not my thing.  Every time we go its hot and crowded and smelly.  But on the third day in Seoul we went to the Zoo.  We saw lions, tigers, seals, and lots of other zoo-worthy stuff.

Problem is, our youngest was hoping to see pigs.  When he discovered the zoo did not have pigs, he was sure to let us know he was having the “Worst. Day  Ever!”  And so he was.  

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But we didn’t want to see zebras…  

Oh, and it turns out that I’m not the only dad who isn’t thrilled about the zoo.  I got a great pic of a dad fighting off sleep at the llama exhibit.  I’m right there with you, sir. 

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Here’s proof that some dad truths are universal

After the zoo we went to a marketplace in search of a Pokemon-inspired stuffed animal named “Psyduck.”  We didn’t find it, and this was devastating to our oldest.  He didn’t even need to say it.  We already knew it was the #worstdayever. 

That night, shockingly, we ate pizza.  And made some new friends.   Not bad for the worst day of my son’s life.

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The Photobomb that resulted in me looking super creepy

Day Four:  Lotte World

On the Fourth day we went to an indoor/outdoor amusement park called “Lotte World.”  On the way there our youngest made a friend on the train who wanted to get a picture.  He also invited our son to sit on his lap.  That wasn’t gonna happen, but they did have a great time.  

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Lotte World is endless.  It’s a junior varsity version of Disneyland, but less crowded and mostly indoors, so the temperature is perfect.  They had quite a few rides all of the kids could enjoy.  The problem with this place is that waaaaayyy too many rides required extra money.   And here I thought America had a lock on the nickel and dime approach…

Oh, but great news!  Lotte World had the “Psyduck” our oldest had been looking for.  With all due respect to Disneyland, Lotte World may have been the happiest place on earth for this kid.  

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Welcome to the family, Psyduck

Day Five:  The De-militarized Zone (DMZ) 

On the fifth day we went to the DMZ.  This is where the borders of North and South Korea meet.  With so much of the news revolving around N. Korea these days, this was great stuff to know and see.  

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We went to a tunnel that was dug by the N. Koreans to invade Seoul back in the 70s.  We also went to an overlook where you can see the entirety of the DMZ.  I won’t say too much more about what we observed because last time Hollywood talked too much about North Korea they all got hacked.  I don’t feel like changing all my passwords, so instead I’ll just post this funny picture of our son… 

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Our tour guide made some interesting observations.  She noted that tourism was way down because of “the Fat Man.”  Minutes later, she informs us that if North Korea launches a nuke at Seoul they will “all be dead in six minutes and there is nothing anyone can do about it.”  

But she assured us that we were all safe…  

The DMZ is a must see in Korea.  I knew nothing about the Korean War and had no legitimate background on what is inspiring current events until I went and saw it for myself.  

Day Six: Some Random Korean Neighborhood

On the sixth day we went to an “authentic Korean neighborhood” which is actually just a tourist trap filled with Starbucks Coffees and places to get fried chicken.  It’s not even worth my time to google the actual name of the place we went to. 

While we were there, we stopped to eat outside someones house.  While we were eating, the owner invited us into his house, gave us water, and set us up at a table.  Super nice guy.  Of course we all had to get a picture.  Psyduck too…

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The next day we went home.  Fully charged tablets made for an eventless plane ride.  Parents have it so easy these days.  

The trip was eventful, and super fun.  Koreans are some of the nicest, most genuinely friendly people you will ever meet.  We left with fond memories, new friends, and of course, our main man “Psyduck.”  

Also, in case you are wondering, I too do not have gas.    

On Helping the Kids Say Goodbye to their Favorite Dog in the World

I always knew “Lilo” was a really good dog.  But when I told the kids she was gone forever I realized she meant so much more…

In 2007, I was newly married, living in a small apartment with my wife and her Golden Retriever.  Upon return from the Honeymoon I discovered that this dog slept in the bed, which I found ridiculous.  Apparently this didn’t come up in pre-marriage counseling.  I wasn’t in a position to throw down the “its-me-or-the-dog” ultimatum; mostly because that first year of marriage was rough and I’m fairly confident Jackie would have chosen the dog.  So we compromised, and Lilo slept in the bed with us.  Such is marriage.    

Truth is, Lilo was a darn good dog.  If she had a ball, she was happy.  Her needs were simple, and our life was simple then, too.  

Before kids, Lilo was our “baby” – the one thing two newlyweds with different perspectives on life could almost always agree on.  Every night she would take us for a walk.  We needed it…

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The Biggest Loser and The Best Trainer

We used to laugh when Lilo would run in the snow because she would inevitably collect snow-dingleberries on her fur.  Seeing those always made us happy, mostly because saying “snow-dingleberries” is everything it’s cracked up to be.  

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As for Lilo, she was a golden wuss…

Bunnies?  Terrifying.  

Balloons?  The horror!  

Cute little kittens?  AHHH!!!!   

There wasn’t much that DIDN’T scare her, but Lilo always knew when she needed to be there for us.  Through a miscarriage, I never knew exactly what to say. Lilo did far more to support Jackie in her silence than I ever could with words.  She was a darn good dog.  

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Eventually we did have kids, and that rocked our world.  Hers too…  

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Like most new parents, we were determined to continue giving Lilo the endless attention we always had.  And like most new parents, we soon realized that was a promise unkept.  But she loved the kids.  She wasn’t scared of them, and perhaps she should have been.  Lilo quickly became the world’s handiest step stool, pillow, and walker.  She was out-of-this-world patient with the kids. 

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Our patient dog

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Ridiculously patient

So yea, the kids loved her, and the feeling was mutual.  Our kids got away with all kinds of maltreatment and animal torture that other dogs wouldn’t put up with. They would literally smother this dog in their unconstrained love for her.  Every once in a blue moon the kids would take it too far and she’d snap at the them.  Sorry kids, neither of you are victims.  

In the chaotic years that followed child-rearing, Lilo became a pseudo babysitter.  She was their best friend.  Those kids really loved that dog.  

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As the kids got older, she did too.  In the years that would follow Lilo lost a step.  She got sick – the tumors clearly visible.  When we got orders to Guam, we had a difficult decision to make.  At the time she was 14 years old.  Guam is miserably hot, and the vet couldn’t say with confidence that Lilo would even survive the 27 hour trip.  We left her in the care of Jackie’s mom.  

As the year went by, Lilo’s condition continued to deteriorate.  The tumors kept spreading, and her body kept slowing down.  The girl who had been there for us all those years was dying.  It pained all of us to be so far away when she was now the one in need.  

Amazingly, she hung in there.  Earlier this summer, Jackie and the kids headed back to Virginia for 6+ weeks to visit family while I was traveling for work.  Lilo was on her last leg, but she was still with us.  

I was able to join the family a few weeks later and the dog I saw was unmistakably different than the one I remembered.  This was the face of a dog who was clearly ready to go.  She had stopped eating, could barely move, and couldn’t keep down water.  And she was vomiting blood.  The end was near.  

We decided to tell the kids.  Specifically, I told them Lilo was old, sick, and was going to die soon.  Of course, this hurt.  Our daughter took the news especially hard, and  wandered inconsolably around the house for the rest of the day refusing to talk to me.  As hard as this was, it gave the kids a chance to say goodbye.  And over the course of the next few days, that’s exactly what they did.  

It was beautiful.  

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Lost in all of this is how hard this was for Jackie.  This was her dog – the one who had been there long before I ever came into her life. Jackie gave me her hand in marriage, but it came with a dog named “Lilo.”  I would have had it no other way.  

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We always hoped Lilo would just fall asleep and not wake up, but that wasn’t to be.  And we could see it in her eyes: it was time.  Her veterinarian is one of the best in the world, and allows you to decide where the dog’s final moments will take place. Not surprisingly, Lilo was always terrified of the vet office, so he came to my mother in law’s house.  Sitting in the yard she loved so much, Jackie and I said a prayer, and then we watched as the life went away from her in the blink of an eye.  Goodbye girl.  

Then came the even harder part.  I wanted the kids to have a chance to say goodbye one last time, even though she was already gone.  We didn’t think it would be fair to just tell them she died and they would never see her again.  So I walked inside and told them I had bad news and they needed to sit down.  I didn’t mince words:  “Kids, Lilo is gone.  She died.”   

The screams were immediate.  Man this one really hurt.  

I brought them outside and they said goodbye with blinding tears in their eyes.  The sorrow was raw.  “I DON’T *WANT* LILO TO BE IN HEAVEN!!!” is all Jimmy could manage to say.  He would continue saying that for hours.  “WHY DID SHE HAVE TO DIE!!!” is all Riley said the rest of the day.  

I hear you, kids.  

I’ve often viewed dogs as pets, but it was only until I saw how hard my family took this loss that it truly dawned on me: Lilo was so much more to us than a “pet.”  She was family.  Shame on me for not seeing it this way all along.  

That Lilo passed while we were all visiting from halfway across the world was nothing short of a storybook ending on an amazing life.  Lilo was a good dog, and we will miss her.  The kids are doing well, and we have no regrets about the manner in which we told them the unfortunate news.  They deserved to be a part of the end.  That was their girl too.  

Lilo made it her mission to support us in good times and bad.  And in this she succeeded.  I’m sure she knew it too.  In fact, the last thing I said to her was “you did a really good job, girl.”  

And indeed she did.  

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NOTE: A special thank you is owed to Tricia Craddock, my mother in law, for taking such good care of our favorite dog in her final year.  I also want to thank Dr. Peter Hyatt of Pender Vet Animal Hospital in Fairfax, VA – in addition to his expertise, he has a genuine love of animals and comes highly recommended by our family.  

Our ‘Classic Guam’ Dolphin-Watching Experience

This week, I decided we needed some dolphins in our lives.  I mean, why not?  Dolphins are super cool and there are no penguins nearby, so this is a no-brainer.  Bonus: the boat launches from the neighboring town of Agat, which will make this an easy voyage.  Yea Dolphins! 

We packed all the essentials – water bottles, sunscreen and Pokemon cards.  Because you never can be too prepared.  

We also brought friends.  Well, I should say Jackie brought her friend Sabrina and the kids brought some of their friends (Sabrina’s kids…).  None of my friends came.  See, if my wife fails to make arrangements for me to hang out with other dudes, it doesn’t happen.  My reliance on her literally stretches this far.  

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Not pictured: Any of Jim’s Dude Friends

We get to the Agat Marina around 10:15 but we cannot head to the boat because Dwayne Johnson is singing our children’s favorite Moana song.  We’re not going anywhere until it’s over, and frankly I have no problem with this.  You’re welcome, kids! 

So we’re in the parking lot and already this adventure has all the makings of a legit Guam experience: no signs, no customer representatives, and no boats preparing to take people out.  There’s also no clarity on what time this thing actually starts – indeed, the brochure says 10:15, but our voucher says 10:30, and some random guy tells us this thing starts at 10:45.  Classic Guam.   

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No information, no problem. 

While we wait, the kids feed fish in the marina with goldfish. I assure you the irony in real-world fish eating Pepperidge Farm Goldfish is not lost on our four year old.  “DADDY!  THE FISH ARE EATING THE FISH!!!”  

Why yes.  Yes they are.  

We set sail as expected, right at 11:00. Before we even get out of the marina, the kids begin identifying all the amazing sea creatures they somehow see.   Brody sees a dolphin and sharks.  Jimmy sees a whale.  Riley sees an octopus…  

I see adorable liars.  

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A few minutes into the trip and the kids see Flying Fish.  But for real this time.  And who knew fish could fly?  Add this to their list of things that apparently exist.  

These fish have a legit superpower, and watching them in action easily occupies our group and about 30 asian tourists for the first 15 minutes of the trip.  Unfortunately, these little suckers are hard to photograph.  

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It’s a fish that flies.  Or is is a bird that swims?   

Right about here is when the boat started serving lunch.  The menu?  Sandwiches and water.  Only, the sandwiches are made of nothing but cake frosting.  Oh yes.  It’s a frosting sandwich.  Inevitably, the kids will ask me if they can have desert because they ate all of their sandwich.   And indeed they should be rewarded with cake.  

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Eat fresh, kids.

So. The boat keeps going out and we get word that there are dolphins in the area.  And sure enough there’s like eight of them swimming together. I’m super excited because we now see dolphins and that was the whole point of this trip.  Mission Accomplished! 

But another part of me is bummed because there’s a money back guarantee if you don’t actually get to see dolphins, and I was kinda hoping this whole thing would be free.  So it’s a mixed range of emotions.  

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Priceless

Anyway, we watched these dolphins for about 15 minutes while they entertained us tourists.  They’re mesmerizing – I could stand and watch them all day.  

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After the dolphin viewing we head out to some other remote area where we would be for the remainder of this excursion.  Upon arrival, the captain tells us we can fish or swim. Our kids don’t get many opportunities to fish cuz I hate touching those slimy suckers.  But there’s a crew here to take care of all that, so naturally we’re taking this opportunity to do some fishing.

Two minutes in, and Brody’s pole is trying to pull him overboard. I seize the rod from him and reel in a sweet-looking blue fish.  A member of the crew informs us that this particular fish has something on its gills that, if touched, will make grown men cry.  A solid reminder of why I despise touching fish… 

The crew member puts the fish into a bucket.  This will become relevant later.  For now, suffice it to say Brody is a proud fisherman. 

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Nearly an hour of fishing would yield zero additional fish. I’ll add that I definitely underestimated how much physical labor goes into assisting a bunch of young children with bait, rogue hooks, and intertwined fishing lines.  Which is conducive to this…

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Got er! 

Before the trip was over I went snorkeling. Despite Guam’s status as a mecca of underwater creature observation, I don’t do this often because (a) it’s too quiet, (b) sharks eat people, and (c), fish can apparently fly so who knows what else they’re capable of doing.  But with dozens of tourists in the water I figure I have math on my side.  

I will say, what’s amazing about these beautiful fish is that you can actually watch them poop.  It’s so cool! But thats about it.  

Eventually the captain tells us it is time to head back. Right about here is when the kids begin begging to keep the fish that Brody caught.  Our neighbor Vivian reminds me that she has a tank at her house the fish can live in.  That would be a beta fish…

We brief the kids on two potential courses of action.  Option One: we let the fish go overboard so it can be with its family.  Option Two: we keep the fish and it dies immediately.  

So which option did they choose?  I’ll let the suspense build for a second…

The kids unanimously vote for Option Two, despite the well-known fatal consequences.  Fortunately, the votes counted for nothing and there never really was an option, per se.  We let the crew keep the fish and I am quite certain he was fried that night.  But the kids don’t need to know all the details…

Before we reach land, I strike a perfectly creepy Titanic pose.  

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Feeling on top of the world!

In all, we went swimming, fishing, and saw some really cool sea creatures. We filled up on some frosting sandwiches, and I watched fish poop.  How could one ask for a better day?  

This is the kind of family time I need more of in my life.  It was a small reminder of why we agreed to come to an island in the middle of nowhere…  

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It was classic Guam.

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Our Wild and Crazy “Family Vacation” in Paradise

Vacationing with small children is a wild, exhausting, action-packed, drama-filled, Kodak moment-waiting-to-happen adventure suitable for those most brave, fortunate and reckless of parents.  I’ve pretty much said this before.  And in my family, it goes a little something like this:

The madness that was our recent trip to Aruba began right out of the gate.  Literally.  After landing, and then dragging four carry-ons and two diaper bags off the plane, and then weaving my way to the baggage claim, I notice something very odd.  Someone’s toothbrushes, sunscreen, big-boy underwear and other items are making their way around the conveyor belt, and everyone who was on Flight 829 from Baltimore is totally getting a kick out of this.  Whose luggage was it?  I’ll give you one guess…

Next stop: our all-inclusive beachfront resort where they serve endless amounts of French Fries drenched in nacho cheese, super-greasy chicken nuggets, and delicious fruity beach drinks.  This will be my meal of choice for the next nine days.  It’s a menu from Heaven – unless you actually mind undoing seven months of intense exercise in about four days.       

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Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should mention that in addition to my family (two adults, three kids) our group consisted of an additional five adults and seven kids all packed into four hotel rooms.  It’s a gloriously-chaotic compilation of nieces, nephews, and in-laws.  Ten kids.  Average age of the little ones?  Three and a half.  There were ten of them. 

Our time spent at the resort was an awesomely-tiring circus of fun and craziness.  Here’s how an average day would go down:

3:00am: baby wakes up.

4:30am: baby wakes up again.

5:00am: baby…

Look, anyone who can maintain their baby’s sleep schedule throughout the course of an international vacation really has this parenting thing down.  Furthermore, baby Brody had an ear infection and I’ve found that when you’re traveling, you’re only ever as happy as your least healthy child.   

6:00am:  Jimmy decides he’s ready to be up for good.  

Quickly and quietly, I surrender and take my oldest outside so my still-nursing wife and the other kids can get a few minutes of uninterrupted sleep.   See, when our family of five shares one small hotel room, each night brings with it yet another hostage negotiation, and these kids know they have all the bargaining power.  They’re cute little criminals.   

Don't be deceived...

Don’t be deceived…

8:00am-10:00am: kids play in sand nicely while mom and dad enjoy coffee and conversation. 

Umm, just kidding.  The kids are probably arguing over who had the pink bucket first… at least that’s what I gather as I hear a chorus of toddlers screaming “MINE!”   Or perhaps it’s a scuffle over the rightful owner of an incredibly popular Thomas the Tank Engine toy.   The purple sand shovel?  That’s “MINE” too.  If you’ve ever been on a trip with a bunch of kids, chances are you’ve said “you can share” many, many times.  Or my personal favorite: “well, take it back from him.”  Either way it’s gonna end in tears. 

The aftermath...

The aftermath…

All of this leaves me wondering why I’m drinking coffee when I could be drinking bourbon.   I’m kidding, of course.  The bar doesn’t open til 11… 

10:00am-11:00am: get ready for the pool. 

Getting small children ready for the pool truly is God’s work.  If you’ve ever seen how ghostly pale I am, you’ll know that we’re rollin’ to the pool with sun shirts, sun hats, and lots of SPF 75 sun screen.   Spray-on sunscreen is amazing, but the best way to cover a face is the old fashion way, which can get sloppy.  So imagine all this happening while two toddlers scream “MY EYES!!!!” at the top of their lungs.   

Ready to swim?  Almost.  All we need is our flotation devices and ear plugs.  And one last trip to the potty.  Oh, and JUICE! 

I may need a vacation from all this vacation…

11:00am-2:00pm: pool time.

Time spent at the pool is legit family fun time, and involves a lot of playing a pretend “silly” lion, or launching kids up in the air as far as humanly possible, or contests to see who can make the most amazing football reception while leaping into the deep end.  It’s all good stuff.   

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My wife and I keep those kids swimming as long as possible because every two minutes spent in the pool adds another minute to naptime.  It’s science.  And when you’re vacationing with small kids, each hour of naptime is like a stick of pure gold.  You treasure that stuff.   

2:00-3:00pm: shower and prep kids for their naps.

Getting multiple sandy children to willingly take a shower is painful, and once in the shower, getting them out can be twice as difficult.  I find bribing them with Skittles helps move this process along quicker and with fewer tears, but if you have a better method please let me know. 

3:00pm-5:30pm: naptime.  

Now quick!  Grab a drink, take a deep breath, and enjoy every glorious moment of childless conversation.   And remember the cardinal rule of naptime parenting: you wake ‘em, you take ‘em.   

NAPTIME!!!!!

NAPTIME!!!!!

6:00pm-8:00pm: dinner.

If there’s one way to ensure you’ll get terrible service and judgmental looks from strangers, it’s walking into a romantic restaurant at its peak busy hour and asking for a “table for 14 plus 3 high chairs.”  Predictably, once we’re seated it’s nothing but chaos.  Picture broken glass because someone didn’t use two hands.  Picture a toddler in timeout because he was climbing on the table and yelling for no reason. Picture a scene as loud, wild and destructive as a group of college students on Spring Break… only louder.  THAT’S what it’s like dining at a table for 14 plus 3 high chairs. 

CHAOS!!!!

CHAOS!!!!

8:00pm-10:00pm: keep kids occupied until bedtime. 

This usually involved long walks, contests to see who could make one of the babies laugh the hardest, or dance parties – and indeed, some of these kids can really shake it.   At this point I’m down for pretty much whatever it takes to bridge the crucial dinner-to-bedtime gap; however, that does come with a few caveats.  Climbing rocks?  “Just be careful.”  Running around the pool?  “Be careful.” Dancing around a cactus?  “CAREFUL!”

Which brings me to my point: I don’t understand why I tell my children to “be careful.”  It’s as senseless as “it is what it is,” and as unhelpful as when you lose your phone and some genius says “well, it’s gotta be SOMEWHERE.”  Lesson learned: “being careful” means nothing to my children – particularly Jimmy, who actually did fall on a cactus.  I guess that just is what it is… 

Not my fault.  I told him to be careful...

Not my fault. I told him to be careful.

10:00pm: bedtime. 

How do we go about capitalizing on this newfound freedom?  We go to sleep cuz we’re exhausted and this whole process will repeat itself in the morning.   

So yea, that’s what it was like vacationing with a bunch of kids. 

Timed family photo fail...

Timed family photo fail…

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering what it’s like getting a flight out of Aruba, apparently this is the process: you stand in line to check in, and then check your bags.  Then you stand in a line to have your passport checked, after which you stand in another line to have passport “verified.”  Then you stand in line to go through security.  Once your shoes and belt are back on, you make your way to “US Departures” where you grab the bags you just checked, and then stand in line again to go through another layer of customs, after which you go through security.  Again.  And then you check your bags.  Again. 

It was every bit as long and painful as a tax audit.  Or a Redskins game.  At one point I actually wondered if this was the island’s way of punishing me for not attending a single timeshare presentation.   Perhaps I’ll never know. 

What I do know is this: in a few years, these trips will be relaxing and rewarding.  But for now, while the kids are this young, I’m simply thankful that it was indeed a very rewarding nine days in paradise. 

Cuz let me tell ya, there’s nothing relaxing about a table for 14 plus 3 high chairs… 

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17 House Rules Our Toddlers Are Destined To Break

Kids, 

We need to talk.  See, it recently dawned on me that at all times our house is like a Wal-Mart on Black Friday.  It’s pure chaos.  So, what follows is a list of what functional families call “rules.” You probably don’t know what a “rule” is, but hey, until a few days ago I had no idea what “twerking” was.  So we’re all gonna learn something new this week.

Rules will take all those fun things you love doing (like standing on the dishwasher, running to the neighbors, running with scissors…), and prevent you from doing them any longer.  At least that’s the idea. They’re standing orders.  They’re the worst.  So please, sit down and take a few deep breaths as you soak these in.  Ready?  Here we go…

1.  No death-jumps onto the dog

Don’t get me wrong, “Lilo” really appreciates you using her rapidly-aging back as an art canvas, step stool and lunch tray.   However, your aggressive, Hulk Hogan-esque flying thrust kick from the couch is shockingly not all that comfortable for her.  So for now, let’s just stick to headlocks and bear hugs.  Or perhaps even just regular old hugs…

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2.  No sneaking outside when you randomly feel like it 

Look, I get it.  Escaping this house makes you feel like Tim Robbins in the climax of an uplifting prison drama.  But rules are rules.  You are banned from walking out of this complex we call “home” without adult supervision and underwear.  Or at least underwear… 

3.  Absolutely no street

The street is like the “shadowy place” in the Lion King – you must never go there!   This means you can’t sprint out onto the street with arms flailing about like a reckless maniac. It also means you can’t kneel down at the curb, put one finger on the asphalt, and then look up at me to see if that counts.  Trust me, that counts.

4.  No helping yourself to the hose 

I’m no expert on firefighting, but I did watch the end of Ladder 49 and would prefer you choose a different profession.  So, this whole “turn-up-the-hose-and-go-crazy-in-the-yard” routine can end.  And thank you, but there’s nothing in the foyer that needs to be watered.  No seriously, turn it off.

5.  No helping yourself out of your bed 

And just so we’re clear: “your bed” does not mean your sibling’s bed, my bed, the dog’s bed or the bathtub.  Now lie down, fork over the puzzle and go to sleep!  Wait, where did you get crackers?!?!   

6.  No helping yourself out of timeout 

Freeze sucker! Anything you say or do for the next two minutes can and will be used against you.  You do not have the right to be represented by your sister.  You actually have no rights whatsoever.  Is this funny to you?  Why are you laughing? 

7.  No Chuck E Cheese coins in the air conditioning vents 

For those who aren’t familiar with the inner-workings of our family, this rule may seem as bizarre and out of place as Shaquille O’Neal in the driver’s seat of the latest Buick sedan.  But unlike said car company, I have no choice in the matter.  So it stays. 

8.  No assaulting your baby brother

Or at very least no assaulting him while he’s sleeping.  Examples of assault include… oh, you know… hitting one’s stomach, vacuuming one’s ears, or furiously stuffing one’s face with pop tarts.  Stuff like that…

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9.  No highly-destructive fridge raiding

So let me get this straight: your story is that while I was in the other room someone broke into the house, dumped a dozen eggs onto the kitchen floor, and then immediately ran out the front door without taking anything?  You’re sure about that?   

10.  No un-chaperoned face-painting parties

Don’t worry; you will have plenty of opportunities to do things like this in college…  

Rules 4 and 10 captured in one highly incriminating picture

And what did I just say about the hose??

11.  No picking each other’s nose

You can pick your own nose as long as we’re not (1) out to dinner or (2) taking family pictures.  However, picking someone else’s nose is weird, gross, and somehow begs for a trip to the emergency room.  Yea, good luck explaining that one to the doctor…

12.  No dumping your drinks

Why yes, I went through all that effort to get you a cup of juice just so you could promptly dump it all over the carpet.  Say, you know what would make this floor smell really awesome?  Bingo!  Your milk! 

13.  No grabbing dog poo with your bare hands

Seriously?  You don’t smell that? 

14.  No unauthorized electronics

Unless told otherwise, all adult electronics are not to be touched.  This specifically includes laptops, hair dryers and shredders.  And don’t bother touching them with one finger and then looking up at me to see if that counts.  Because trust me, that counts.   

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15.  No unauthorized peeing

Forgive me for not explaining this earlier: the fridge is not a potty (PS: you are so weird).  Other things that aren’t toilets: the floor, the couch, the dinner table, mom and dad’s bed, the car, and the dog.  And if you’re gonna go in our bed, then at least do it on mom’s side…

16.  No drinking mom’s Diet Coke

Remember the sound that a protective momma bear makes when someone threatens her cubs?  Well, your mom can make that sound too…

17.  No endless crying sessions for no reason

It’s 10:00pm.  So as shockingly tyrannical as this is going to sound, the answer is “no.” I’m not changing you into your bathing suit.      

Phew, all done.  And I know what you’re probably thinking: I’m the worst.  I’m evil.  I sit on a throne of lies.  It’s all true.  And unfortunately there will be no “good cop, bad cop” routine here because you’re mom’s crooked too. 

However, rules are meant to be broken, and sadly there’s no chance you two conspirators will be following them anyway.  So, your mom and I may be willing to look the other way during one of your infamous hose fights if you’d kindly never go into the street, because that really scares us.  Deal?

-Dad

PS: Oh, and don’t bother standing at the edge of the curb hovering your right foot over the street to see if that counts.  Just trust me, that counts…

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28 Totally Random Thoughts From Myrtle Beach

I spent the last week in Myrtle Beach, SC swimming with children, bathing myself in sunscreen, and doing some thinking about life down by the boardwalk.  Consider this a print-out of those thoughts:

1. This whole YOLO thing isn’t going way. 

YOLO, or You Only Live Once, is the “WWJD” of this decade, as about half the shirts and hats I saw on the boardwalk bear the acronym.  It also goes on my official List of Things I Never Thought Would Last Longer Than Two Years, which includes energy drinks, Taylor Swift and text messaging.

2. If I ever see my daughter wearing a “Beer Slut” shirt she will be grounded for months, and then forced to wear a turtleneck and corduroy pants for the rest of her life.

To clarify: there will be no wearing of shirts that say “Beer Slut.”

To clarify: there will be no wearing of shirts that say “Beer Slut.”

3. Cruise by Florida Georgia Line ft. Nelly kinda makes me wish I had a brand new Chevy with a lift kit…

4. My two year-old son is in love and he doesn’t care who knows it!!!

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Jimmy did not hide his feelings for this girl! Look at him…he’s hooked! Meanwhile, my wife, mother in law and I enjoyed chanting “Jimmy’s got a girlfriend!” and good Lord are we going to enjoy embarrassing him when he actually gets one.

5. We have a twin stroller and a baby stroller.  So naturally our twins fight like savages over who gets to ride in the baby stroller.

Riley wins this battle...but the war is far from over.

Riley wins this battle…but the war is far from over.

6.  My wife doesn’t think hotel maids need to be tipped.  I, however, vehemently disagree and think they deserve to be tipped.

Of course, what maids really deserve when they walk into our cracker crumb factory of a hotel room is a heartfelt apology and a pay raise.  Or better yet, a new job.

Of course, what maids really deserve when they walk into our cracker crumb factory of a hotel room is a heartfelt apology and a pay raise. Or better yet, a new job.

7.  I totally forgot our anniversary. 

Fortunately my wife did too, so I got a mulligan on this one.  Say, will someone out there please give me a heads up about three days before Valentines Day?   Equally important: will someone give my wife the same heads up?

Fortunately my wife did too, so I got a mulligan on this one. Say, will someone out there please give me a heads up about three days before Valentines Day? And equally important: will someone give my wife the same heads up?

8. The pool is no place to call a toddler’s bluff on the subject of going “poop.”  Moving on…

9.  Restaurants that slip a $.50 charge on the bill for each little Dixie cup of ice water served should be shamed publicly.

This place belongs on some kind of sex offender registry for restaurants.  If you see this establishment then I suggest you hide your kids and hide your wife!

This place belongs on some kind of sex offender registry for restaurants. If you see this establishment then I suggest you hide your kids and hide your wife! And your husbands too! 

10. Whoever invented spray-on sunscreen deserves a Nobel Prize as far as I’m concerned – a mind-blowingly genius invention on the same level as air conditioning and the bunk bed.

Totally covered.

Fear not: this white boy is totally covered!

11.  Navigating a double stroller through heavy pedestrian traffic on the boardwalk is pretty much the worst thing ever.  It involves a lot of this: “Excuse me.  Sorry.  Excuse me.  Sorry.”  Now repeat…

12.  No, daddy, no!” I hear that quite a bit now, and will probably continue to hear that for at least the next 18 years.  Nooooo!!!!

13.  Getting our toddlers to leave an arcade without crying is simply impossible.

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More! More! Please! Please! No, daddy, no!” Yea, that’s the thanks I get for shelling out every last quarter to my name.

14. Watching Shark Week minutes before heading out to swim in the ocean is kind of terrifying.

Not too deep son!!!!

Not too deep son!!!!

15. The 1200 N Ocean Boulevard at which we arrived after 8 grueling hours of driving is about 45 minutes from the 1200 N Ocean Boulevard we really needed to get to.  Dang you iPhone Navigation!!!!

16. Continental breakfasts are so underrated.  I applaud the hotel industry for making this pretty much standard.  Now let’s start working on Continental lunches, dinners and midnight snacks…

17.  There is an ocean and four amazing pools at this hotel, and naturally our kids want to spend almost all of their time on these 90+ degree days in the 102+ degree hot tub. 

18. Watching hundreds of disgusting catfish eat little pieces of grain is strangely fascinating to me.  Is that weird?

No, it's not weird.  It's actually awesome.

19. There is nothing worse than trying to enjoy a delicious fruity beverage in a lazy river, and having rowdy teenagers ruin EVERYTHING by turning it into a racetrack.  #firstworldproblems.

20. When your son wants to ride the giraffe but someone else takes it and all that’s left is a horse, carousel rides are only medium-fun. 

#toddlerproblems

#toddlerproblems

21. At what point during the course of an eight hour drive is it no longer a lie to tell your children that they’re “almost home”?  After two hours?  Three? 

22.  Nothing will make you run through a fast food restaurant faster than seeing your two-year old daughter naked in the play place.  Like, totally, completely, 100% naked.   Not even socks.

23. In high school, I came here for “Beach Week.”  Now, 12 years later, it’s referred to as “a week at the beach,” and trust me there’s a huge difference.

24.  You know you’re a mom when…

An expensive pineapple drink starts leaking and you fix the problem by putting a diaper on it.  Mom with the save!

…an expensive pineapple drink starts leaking and you fix the problem by putting a diaper on it. Mom with the save!

25. This is what 95% of our family pictures look like:

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26. The Ferris Wheel is the only place in Myrtle Beach that offers a military discount.

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Trust me, my wife checked everywhere. Every. Where.  

27.  My daughter sleeps with her bottom pretty much straight up in the air.  Which is amazing.

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What’s even more amazing is that my mother-in-law, Tricia Craddock, slept with these two each night of the trip so my wife and I could get some sleep.  Yes!

28. And lastly, thank you, Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Jeschke, USMC.

A year ago this week, Jeschke was killed while honorably defending our country in Afghanistan.  He was a hardcore special ops Marine serving his fifth active duty deployment.  Five deployments.  He embodied “YOLO” before YOLO became YOLO. 

Or better yet, that’s WWJD.

And more importantly, he sacrificed his life for others, which is exactly “What Jesus Would Do”

May God bless his wife and family, and may our family never forget the sacrifices others have made so that we can spend a week playing in an arcade, drinking in a lazy river, and yes, chasing my naked daughter through a Chick-fil-A.

16 Survival Tips From A Fellow Father of Twins

When I found out my wife was pregnant with twins, I asked as many people as I could for their advice on parenting. What I usually got was real sentimental stuff about how I should “cherish every minute” because “before you know it, they’re grown.” Now that’s nice, and it’s probably true, but it wasn’t very helpful at 4am with I was rocking a frantic baby for the millionth time, or when I was alone with the kids and poop was freaking everywhere.

So. After some collaboration with my wife, I present to you a list of practical advice specifically geared toward future and current fathers of young twins. I note that I’m not an expert on twins, parenting, or pretty much anything.  But I can change two diapers in less than 30 seconds, and dang it, that should count for something.  With credentials established, here it goes:

1. Don’t bother buying two of everything.

Ahh twins, so cute. Matching outfits, matching cribs, and matching toys are an obvious necessity, right? Umm, wrong. First off, matching clothes is something I pretty much never do because our children are actual people with unique personalities and not some public freak show. Furthermore, the “get-two-of-everything” approach is a big mistake because twins would rather steal from each other than each have their own.  If you really wanna plan ahead, get extra diapers and coffee instead.

2. Don’t plan on vacationing for, like, a really long time.

Oh gosh. Flashbacks. Jamaica. Our kids were seven months old. Between the flight, subsequent ear infection, lack of sleep, and lack of sanity, they pretty much cried the whole time. And come to think of it, I did too. Trips to visit new grandparents are much different because, to the glory of God, many of them don’t mind holding fussy babies. To recap: trips to visit family, decent idea; trips to a hotel in “paradise” with ultra thin walls and no room for a bouncy seat, terrible idea.

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Now everyone stop crying and smile!  

3. When people offer to hold your children, accept immediately and enjoy every last second of glorious freedom.

If someone wants to hold a baby, THEN FOR GOODNESS SAKE LET THEM! Social functions with lots of young single women or empty nesters are great for this, and church seems to be a place where both are in abundance. So if you’re a nonbeliever with twins, go to church and be saved in more ways than one.

Who wants him

Who wants him???

4. Don’t *EVER* do the shopping.

T.W.I.N.S. is an acronym for They Will Immediately Nullify your Savings. A double dose of diapers, wipes, formula, clothes, more diapers, more wipes, and more formula is a formula for near bankruptcy, and its best you remain blissfully ignorant of how much all of this is costing you. Now stop asking questions and fork over the platinum!

5. Don’t out-complain your friends dealing with “just one” baby.

Twins provide an endless arsenal of complaints about pretty much everything. Nothing will make you lick your chops more than a friend who complains about how they had to change one poopy diaper the other day when you literally just changed, like, five of them. My advice: constantly remind yourself that raising children is really tough– even for new parents of “just one.” And then be amazed by the dads of triplets out there who think you have it easy with “just two!”

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6. Go out on a date every once in a while.

It’s probably not gonna happen every week, or even every two weeks. But hopefully at least once a month you can pull your wife out of the combat zone and take her to dinner – with no kids. While you’re there, let the most stress-inducing topic of conversation be what you’ll be having for dessert. And whatever you do, don’t let your wife call to check up on the little ones. She doesn’t want to know what’s really going on…

7. Give mom a decent night of sleep at least once every week.

On Friday nights, I was in charge. I got up with the kids, fed them, rocked them, and took care of them from 11pm to 9am. My wife slept alone those nights, and in return, she ensured that I had relatively-good sleep for the rest of the week. She was also just overall nicer to me. Those mornings were tough, but trust me: the best wife is a rested wife.

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8. Take tons of pictures.

Chances are mom will be too occupied to take the pictures that are truly magical, like the ones where they’re throwing a fit for no reason, or stuck in the dryer, or split seconds away from having a hand bitten by a pig. Also, digital cameras put the cost of each picture at $0.00, so there’s literally nothing to lose. Instagram that baby!

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9. Don’t compare your kids to others who seem to be developing much faster.

Odds are your twins will communicate with the non-verbal language they developed as POWs in the womb. So as much as they would love to shout out their letters, numbers and colors, you may have to settle for “moo” or “da-da” for a while – a looooong while. Also, twins are born ridiculously early. So while my son is in the bottom percentile for weight, height and other measurable indicators of whether he’ll be a star quarterback one day, I take delight in knowing he’ll make an amazing prom date one day.

10. Find one-on-one time for both children.

My son wakes up early and loves to play catch, so we get a lot of time together. Unfortunately, my daughter does neither, and her affection is much harder to come by. So, every now and then I will take her out – just us – and pay for whatever she can hold onto at the dollar store, or treat her to some delicious McDonald’s soft serve. The result: she likes me for a little while.

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11. Teach those babies how to sleep!

At around four or five months, just start plopping your babies in their cribs for a nap at the same time every day and don’t feel guilty when they scream bloody murder for the next 30 minutes – it’s all just part of the learning process.  And when your bachelor friends make fun of you for leaving a party early because it’s “way past their naptime” and the kids are “all off today,” just know I was right there with you, brother. Now hurry home before bedtime gets screwed up too!

12. Master the art of something helpful, like giving baths or taking long walks.

Apparently my wife isn’t a big fan of showering while two infants scream just yards away. To keep my wife sane (and sanitary), I would occasionally strap the kids in the stroller and walk them for a solid 30 minutes while I chatted with whoever was willing to help me kill the time (thanks mom!). As for me, well, I just pretty much stopped showering altogether…

13. Pray. Like, all the time.

Pray with them and pray for them. Pray that ear infections go away, pray that they eat better, and pray for two successive days without some new sickness they will soon share. Seriously, just pray. And when they’re answered, you’ll know better than to take them for granted. Amen?

14. Actually play with your kids for a few minutes every single day.

Stop everything you’re doing and roughhouse with the kids. You should see my daughter’s face when I playfully declare “TICKLE TIME!”, or the look of excitement my son gets when I grab a whiffle ball and head outside. My wife would much rather I help make a few frowns dissapear than help make a few dishes disappear… and frankly so would I.

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15. If possible, hire a maid for a while.

I’ve never really cared about a little dust on the headboard or toothpaste in the sink. Heck, if I put the toilet seat down I’m having a good day. But my wife cares about these things and had absolutely no time to clean. So, we had a maid come over every other week and it really seemed to help my wife calm down about the house. Usually by the time I got home there were already clothes, toys and crackers all over the place… but the floor sure did smell like Pine-Sol!

16. Just survive the first 9 months or so. You got this!

For months I found myself thanking God it was Monday. Weekends and holidays were a grind, and I was a ticking time bomb when holding the babies so my wife could go to the bathroom. Perhaps it didn’t help that I was working full time and going to law school at night during the worst of it.  But somewhere around 9 or 10 months, they started sleeping a bit more regularly, getting sick less, and playing more – which was amazing. Now they’re two, and they absolutely adore each other… except when they fight over a toy.

If only we had two of everything…

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It’s Official: I’m Becoming a Grumpy Old Man

When I was about 10 years old, I went to an Atlanta Braves baseball game with my late grandfather, Ray Howland.  And while I don’t remember a thing about the actual game, I do remember a group of guys about two sections over trying desperately to get a “wave” going  (you know, the kind where everyone stands up and shouts when it comes your way…). Naturally, this was far more worthy of my attention than the game.  And to their credit, these guys eventually got a wave going all the way around the stadium.  A resounding win for the drunks in Section 314. 

Because I watched this wave develop, I felt unusually invested.  I was especially proud to stand up and shout each time it went by.  But my grandfather just sat there unfazed.  “Why aren’t you standing up?”  I asked with an accusatory tone.  His response, uttered on a day which will forever live in infamy, was as follows:  “I hate the wave. It’s obnoxious.”

If you’re wondering how I took this, well, here’s a clue: he might as well have told Tinkerbell he didn’t believe in fairies.  I mean seriously, who doesnt love the wave? 

Well, this whole interaction became even more impactful to me about four years ago at a baseball game I went to with my own father.  Wouldn’t you know it, another wave got started.  And wouldn’t you know it, my dad echoed the very sentiments of his father before him:  the wave is “distracting” to those “actually watching the game.”  I couldn’t believe it.  Et tu? 

Whatever my grandfather had, my dad now had as well.  And I knew it was only a matter of time before I got it as well.  Or, as a famous king once declared: “Simba, you must take your place in the Circle of Life.”

 Well, this weekend marked my 10 year high school reunion.  The event itself was incredible.  Indeed, I went to an awesome high school and graduated with a group of people that I hope to stay in touch with for the rest of my life.  Mandatory “Go Warhawks!”    

But the occasion provided me with an opportunity to contrast “High School Me” with “Current Me”.  And upon reflection, I feel I am heading in the direction of my forefathers a bit faster than I originally hoped.  Which is why I now present to you several observations about how I’ve changed since high school, and why I fear my love for the “wave” may expire in the coming years.  Here goes nothing.  

— I drink diet soda now – something I promised myself I would never do.  But, diet soda has fewer calories (true) and the same great taste (false).  So there. 

— I am truly bothered when lights are left on unnecessarily in the house, or when the heat is going and the door is left open.  My wife recently caught me asking her (in an annoyed voice) why it was necessary that we have “every single light in the house on at once.”  Coming soon: “this is why we can’t have nice things,” and “if you keep it up I’m turning this car around.”   

— A lot of popular music just doesn’t make sense to me.  I was in the car recently flipping through radio stations and stumbled upon a catchy song in which I could have promised you the guy was saying “Open Condom Style.”  How inappropriate!  (Google assures me it’s actually: “Oppan Gagnam Style”).   And “party rock is in the house tonight?”   What does that even mean?

— Speaking of music, I kind of actually like the song “Call Me Maybe.”  This is something I would never have admitted in high school.  And since I’m making confessions:  I always secretly enjoyed listening to the Backstreet Boys, N’Sync and 98 Degrees.  Oh yea, and I shed a tear at the end of “Titanic.” Conscience cleared. 

— I was baptized and became a follower of Jesus Christ.  This is something that I won’t joke about because it’s a pretty big deal.  The changes in my life this has sparked are too numerous to list on this blog, but here’s a subtle one:  I’ve noticed that substituting the word “blessed” for the word “lucky” gives me instant Christianity street cred (something I’m always looking for). 

       Ex1: “I am so lucky blessed to have finally found my keys.” 

       Ex2: “I am so lucky blessed that the Redskins covered the spread against the Giants.”*** 

***Obligatory disclaimer: I don’t gamble.  Oh wait dang it, I forgot about my fantasy football leagues.  So I guess I do kind of gamble…

— I watch shows that would embarrass the high school version me.  Food Network,  HGTV, you name it.  “Is this woman gonna finish icing those cupcakes before time runs out? The suspense is killing me!”  In fairness, getting my wife to watch college basketball with me is something I have had to earn.  I do this by banking hours of TLC, Army Wives, and Christmas movies, and then cashing them in when my Indiana Hoosiers are on.  That’s my story and I’m stickin to it. 

— When it rains, I almost instinctively declare that “the grass could really use it.”  Enough said. 

— I have hit the point in my life where the cost of going to the movies is a deal-breaker – something that never mattered in high school.  “12.50 for a movie?!?!” When I was a kid, we walked to school uphill both ways in the snow.  And movies were only $6.   

— I am genuinely excited for my friends when they post things on Facebook like “(insert baby name) just went pee-pee in the potty!” And while most people think Daylight Savings Time is awesome cuz it gives them an extra hour in the fall, I know that it throws everything off with the kid’s sleeping schedule.  Basically, it’s evil! 

— Per family tradition, I leave early from concerts and sporting events to ensure that I won’t get stuck in traffic.  This is a classic old man operation.  So while you’re enjoying the second song of Tim McGraw’s encore, don’t be surprised if you see me whispering “we’re gonna be stuck here for hours” to myself while I frantically scan the parking lot.  Yup. 

— In 2002, my precious little sister (10 years younger) watched Barney.  Now she’s in a sorority.  Plus, I recently talked to a college student who had never seen a single episode of “Saved By The Bell.”  So yea, I’m getting old. 

— Lastly: I’m a Republican now.  If anyone by chance has the ability to time-travel back to 2002, please do not tell this to the high school version of me.  It would devastate a big-time Al Gore fan.

There are many more examples of my old-manhood.  But there’s hope for me, isn’t there?  I mean, I still rock out to Michael Jackson.  I still love wearing awesomely tacky American Flag clothes.  AND I STILL LOVE THE “WAVE”! 

Well, one thing’s for sure: I am going to cling on to 29 years old with all my might.  Because 30 brings a whole new level of “you’re getting old” that I’m not sure I’m ready for.  Heck before I know it, I’ll be RSVP’ing to my 30 year high school reunion, and by then my case of “Grumpy Old Manhood” will be fully incurable. 

One of the symptoms?  Explaining to my grandchildren that the “wave” is quite distracting to people trying to watch the game.  Can’t wait.

GUYS, IM TRYING TO WATCH THE GAME HERE!

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!

Fact: Quitting Coffee Is Pretty Much The Worst Thing Ever

I’m a well-documented coffee addict.  Indeed, it’s my opinion that no baby registry is complete without a year’s worth of caffeine products.  But in the words of one of my favorite 80s jams, “here I go again on my own!” Yep, I’ve gone and quit one of the things I love most.  I must be crazy.    

Why did I quit?  I was hoping you would ask…

I started drinking coffee when I got out of college.  It began with one cup per day.  Then it became two cups.  But I limited myself to two cups a day… until law school began, at which point I began having a third cup before class. 

Note: can you blame me?  I mean, you try sitting through lectures on rules of evidence and corporate takeovers with nothing but your can-do attitude.   

So there I was: three cups a day.  Max!  But… the occasional all-night legal writing project added a fourth cup to the mix.  I’m no dietician, but that’s a lot of caffeine in a day.  To make it worse, coffee became a must…especially in the morning.  My addiction manifested itself at church, where I began bringing a coffee mug and sneaking an occasional sip or two when nobody was looking (I couldn’t wait until after the service when coffee was both provided and socially-acceptable).  Other coffee addicts would occasionally look at me as if to say “don’t be ashamed, I’m doing it too…”  We were the coffee-at-church pioneers. 

And speaking of coffee mugs, let me also note that two “cups” eventually became two mugs.  And I assure you, a mug is about twice as big as a cup.  Fortunately as a general rule, a “cup” of coffee is still a cup regardless of the size of the drinking apparatus used.  In other words, a cup is a cup, and a gallon of coffee is still a cup.  This all makes sense to coffee drinkers…

Note: it also makes sense to soda addicts.  For this reason, a 64 ounce mug from 7/11 is a “soda” the same way a 12 ounce can is a “soda.”  Either way, the addict takes comfort in knowing that they have only consumed one soda that day. How disciplined!   

And when I really needed to get going, I’d buy a venti (which means “large” in French or Spanish or something) coffee from Starbucks.  Ahh Starbucks coffee.  It’s feel-good speed.  Starbucks dumps about twice as much caffeine in their coffee as anyone else and then has the audacity to disperse all kinds of information about how “coffee is actually good for you and contains lots of valuable nutrients.”  We coffee drinkers love thinking that our addiction just happens to be healthy… 

Note: it’s kinda like those studies which show that “chocolate is actually good for your health.”  Who funds these studies?  Probably Hershey’s.  But go ahead and munch away at that 500 calorie chocolate bar…it’s good for your, uhh, heart.         

Anyway.  For years, I assured myself that I wasn’t a coffee “addict” because I “could totally quit if I wanted to…” But in six years, I had not gone a day without coffee.  Not one single day. 

I have absolutely no actual knowledge of whether or not it’s true, but I’m convinced coffee makes your hands tremble at an early age.  And I know it stains your teeth.  It’s also really expensive, and it makes you feel like a total loser when you have to walk out in the cold and grab coffee by yourself because everyone else at work has “already had theirs”.  Oh yea, and it’s addictive. 

I realized I had become far too addicted one morning when I was late for work.  My mug was cold, and I had barely touched it, but I nonetheless chugged the entire thing right there.  It was gross. But, coffee had become a box I checked off twice each morning just to make it through, and chugging it like an anxious frat boy was what I had come to.  (Insert “Frank-the-Tank” chant). 

So with all that stuff in mind, I had decided it was time to quit.  I had considered quitting coffee before, but then my wife bought me a “Keurig,” which is basically a machine that makes great coffee in a matter of seconds, and leaves no mess.  The Keurig single-handedly delayed my plan to quit drinking coffee by about a year.  But man I love that machine.  (Lustful sigh…)  

I decided I would go cold turkey – not even bothering with the “phase out” approach.  I also decided to quit drinking soda because I figured it would become a crutch, and I honestly believe coffee is much better for me than soda.  Call me crazy, but I don’t think Mountain Dew is the key to staying young.  For those of us approaching 30, Mountain Dew is more like the key to staying awake… and then getting a kidney stone.  (Man-I’m-getting-old sigh…). 

So anyway.  One night I just told myself I wouldn’t have any more coffee.  Of course, Jimmy got sick that next morning and had me up before 5am.  But I stuck to the plan and went in to work sans caffeine.  And it…SUCKED!!!

Yea, quitting coffee is terrible.  I had the worst headache of my life for a solid day.  In fact, I even broke down and “did the Dew” that afternoon.   I also took some Tylenol or Advil (I always get them confused) that night, and drank a TON of water.  The day went by VERY SLOWLY, and that night, class was miserable.  I cannot emphasize this enough: quitting coffee is pretty much the worst thing ever.    

The next morning, things were a little better, but the day dragged on, and when I got home from work, I took a three hour nap.  I pretty much never take naps, but this one was glorious.  I still fought the headaches, but they weren’t nearly as bad. 

Day three and four were on a weekend, and I was able to sleep a little bit more than usual.  Still, I craved the taste of some coffee goodness.  I settled for orange juice, which is nowhere near as satisfying as “the good stuff.”  I also tried decaf coffee, which felt like supplementing cocaine with Pixy Stix. Not that there’s anything wrong with Pixy Stix…

Well, it’s been exactly one month, and I have been coffee and soda-free.  And even though I still very much crave coffee, it genuinely feels good to not to be such a slave to it anymore.  I am sleeping better, and feeling better.  My breath, I’m sure, is much better.  Still, my energy level isn’t quite where it used to be.  That I have not blogged once since I quit coffee is probably no coincidence…

Will I be back?  Well, if we have twins again then the answer is 100% yes.  And given that I’m about to become a lawyer (where coffee flows like scotch), the odds are stacked against me.  But I’m gonna stay strong.  Indeed, I can do all things with coffee in Christ who gives me strength. 

And if I really need my fix? I will be sure to limit myself to just one mug of coffee… I mean, cup.  Cheers. 

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