Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

Archive for the tag “parenting”

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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Our Drama-Filled Adventure to Tarzan Falls

I confess I’m not the world’s most outdoorsy person. Kayaking? That’s a sunburn waiting to happen. Camping? My bed works better. 

Left to my own devices I’d spend a perfectly good Saturday on the couch setting my fantasy football team, watching HGTV and eating copious amounts of Cinnamon Life. Now that’s living.   

But alas!  My wife is a planner.  She is outdoorsy.  And she is a big fan of mandatory fun.  

She’ll want to spend her entire Saturday doing something intrinsically senseless like picking apples or cutting down a Christmas Tree.  Apparently these activities are far more exciting than the football matchup I wanted to watch between the Central Michigan Chippewas and the Oklahoma State Cowboys.  I digress…

Naturally when my wife proposed we go hiking this weekend I had reservations. See, like doing Hot Yoga and eating hard-to-pronounce pastas, Ive always kinda assumed hiking was an activity exclusively for liberals.  Plus, see paragraphs above. 

Well, on tap this weekend was a trip to a place called Tarzan Falls.  Like, for a hike.  

As always, I tried to bargain. What if instead of going to Tarzan Falls we watch the movie Tarzan instead???  In the end we compromised… and went to Tarzan Falls. 

As with all directions on this island, the directions to Tarzan Falls lacked street signs, an address, and visible markers. We were literally told to take a left out of our neighborhood, then “go till it gets kinda forest-y,” and then look for the shoes hanging from the telephone wire.  Then, of course, you’re there.

In preparation I drank three cups of coffee.  Which is where this whole adventure begins…

Three minutes into the ride over and we need to stop. Like right now! 

And so there I was, on the side of the road.  Going to the bathroom in a sea of painful prickly bushes and bracing for a tree snake attack while the rest of my family laughed from the car.  Guess you could say it was your standard car ride…

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We arrive at Tarzan Falls around 11am and I waste no time taking an insane amount of pictures so my Facebook friends will think we do this kinda stuff every day.  Smiles kids! 

Jackie is sporting the brand new workout shoes she (ahem, we…) just bought in order to replace the older ones that had mud and dirt all over them.  That will become important in a moment…

Okay moments up.  Jackie’s new shoes were drowning in mud and dirt no more than 100 yards into this adventure.   AND THIS IS WHY WE CANT HAVE NICE THINGS. 

In fairness, I suppose we all underestimated how insanely muddy this trek would be.  So much mud.  And sitting water.  And more mud. 

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Coming Soon: There Will Be Mud 

The kids waste no time reminding Jackie and me that we’re legit tyrants.  “It’s so hot,” I’m so hungry,” and “I can’t walk anymore.”  Not even ten minutes in and all the kids are apparently going to die.  

The good news is there are some pretty cool things to point out along the way. 

Like…

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Stunning views of Guam

And even more importantly…

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A “Prince” Frog!!!

It was all fun and games until our 5 year old daughter slipped and fell into the mud.  I don’t have a picture of this particular moment, but what follows should give you a good idea of how this went down: 

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MUD!!!!

Others would soon follow suit.  Slip, fall, mud, tears.  Repeat.  

Eventually we make our way down the steep hills. The blood sweat and tears were all worth it when we got to this: 

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And did this: 

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And this: 

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One more: 

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After lunch it was time to head back.  

The hike back up was tough, no doubt.  The kids noted that the trek was “soooo far,” and that they were “soooo tired” and inquired into exactly when we would “finally get to mommy’s car.”  My personal favorite?  “I’m not hydrated enough to take another single step!” 

Try not to die, kids…

Then we hit a swamp.  The kids walked around it in painfully slow fashion until my quick-thinking wife convinced them there was an alligator in there.  Speed-walking commenced.

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We finish around 1:30.  Two and a half hours of Guam-inspired mandatory fun.  

Honestly? It was a blast! And perhaps somewhere deep down I really am an outdoors-y person. 

But for today, I’ll be watching the Indiana-Ball State Football Game and eating cereal on the couch while my wife does laundry. 

Say, she sure is lucky to have me. 

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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.

Butter, Butt Cream & Other Things Our Toddlers Eat (A Poem)

Here’s a little poetry,
On things our toddlers eat,
Never dined with a two year old?
Then hang on to your seat!
 
Consider this your warning,
And please try not to judge.
Our kids enjoy disgusting foods,
And their hunger just won’t budge.
 
I’ve also added things they drink,
Cuz neither has forbearance,
And when you read just what they chug,
You’ll think we’re awful parents.
 
One final little caveat,
While I have you in suspense,
Everything you’re about to read,
Is inspired by real events…
 
Let’s begin with bath water,
So quenching you may drool…
It features dirt and bubble bath,
And taste’s like a kiddie pool! 
 
It's basically Gatorade...

It’s basically Gatorade…

Yep, this concoction is a favorite,
And despite my desperate pleading,
These kids will drink it down so fast
You’d think they were competing.
 
They’d also take a Diet Coke,
The drink that keeps mom sane…
Looks like one of them sneaked a sip,
Aaaaannnnd now it’s going down the drain.

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To eat, they want full sticks of butter,
Which is always a sensitive issue.
“What do you mean we can’t have this???”
Oh boy, were gonna need tissue…
 
Now let’s add a boogar or two,
Freshly picked from the source…
If at first they can’t quite reach the prize,
They’re bound to stay the course.
 
And what’s tastier than a Sharpie?
Or even a flavored marker…
The perk is that it can also be used
To make pale skin just a bit darker.

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Oh, what’s this they found in the backyard?
Could it be an old sippy cup?
It contains a solid that used to be milk,
But who cares?  They’ll drink it all up!
 
I’ve read that the sins of the father,
Are passed to the next generation.
Perhaps that explains why their fingernails,
Are chomped at without reservation.
 
And who says dog food is only for dogs?
It has such a wonderful taste!
Besides, “Lilo” wasn’t hungry anyway,
And we don’t want it going to waste…
 
In the mood for some Italian?
Then do I have a meal for you,
Crusty old noodles found under the table…
It’s a perfect dinner for two!
 
And if that sounds delicious,
Then you’ll find this to be splendid:
Butt cream is a popular item,
And it’s highly recommended!
 
Craving something from the sea?
Well, we have the perfect dish…
A fist full of sand will not disappoint,
Heck it even smells like fish!

Jimmy sand

And although not a meal per se,
They’ll chew any pair of shoes,
The ones they wore in the rain and mud,
Are the ones they’re bound to choose.
 
In the mood for something cherry?
Then do yourself a favor…
Sink your teeth into mom’s ChapStick,
And just enjoy that flavor!
 
Surely you’d like an old fruit snack
That fell way under the seat…
Or better yet, a piece of gum,
They scooped it off the street!
 
Maybe it’s a “special night,”
And you’re craving something refined;
Our coins and jewelry are Zagat-Rated,
In case you feel so inclined….
 
Calamine lotion goes down so smooth,
And tastes just like apple juice!
But mom hesitates to call poison control,
Cuz they’re bound to think child abuse!
 
“Oh, please don’t drink dad’s special drink!”
It’s sure to make them nauseous…
“And spit that wire out right now!”
Cuz you can never be too cautious…

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Of course, some things don’t surprise me,
Cuz kids are easily predicted,
I guarantee he’ll eat that scab…
He was drooling when he picked it!
 
“NO, NO, NO! Let’s not eat that!”
You know you’ve said it too…
Cuz how was your kid supposed to know
That it’s “yucky” to eat dog poo?
 
True, they’ll eat some normal foods,
Some items worth retaining…
But if they neglect to use their forks,
The scene becomes quite entertaining.
 
Watch them using just their hands,
While scarfing down spaghetti.
Chocolate pudding without a spoon?
Yea… I’ll get the tub ready!

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Soon as they learned to open the fridge,
Our kids began living like kings,
“Who spilled juice all over the couch???
See, THAT’S WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!!!”
 
Mutiny!!!

Mutiny!!! 

That which our toddlers eat and drink
Will never cease to amaze me.
And the more I try to regulate,
The more they drive me crazy.
 
I might as well surrender,
And stop being so judicious…
Perhaps I should try some Desitin,
Who knows?  It’s probly delicious!
 
All along I’ve been close-minded,
And now I feel like a fool,
Why be constrained to just five seconds?
Let’s make it the Two Hour Rule!

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A mound of ketchup on my corn?
It makes my taste buds blossom…
Hot sauce on this Oreo?
Yea, that sounds totally awesome!
 
So here’s to a whole new attitude,
On healthy eating and diet,
Now pass that dog food over cuz…
I’ve desperately wanted to try it!
 
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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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My Golf Outing with President Obama

On Saturday, I ran into the President of the United States at a golf course.  Twice.  You know, no big deal or anything… 

Before I get into that, let me just say that I never truly appreciated the awesomeness of the sport of golf until I had kids.  It didn’t help that I was awful and would consistently hit the ball 60 yards into the woods.  Furthermore, it was expensive, exhausting, and dragged on for six hours.  SIX HOURS! 

But in a world of diaper changes, spilled milk, and unwanted drawings on the kitchen table, golf represents freedom and tranquility – for six glorious hours. 

This is why I golf

This is why I golf

Well, Saturday, my brother in law and I headed out to the Fort Belvoir Golf Course.  The only time I had ever played there before, President Obama was there.  So when we arrived and saw dozens of “golfers” with funky wires going into their ears, I already suspected he might be there again. 

When we walked up to the starter, we were informed that the course was on “lockdown.”  Nobody explained what that meant, but apparently everyone knew.  I probably heard the word 30 times in the course of about four minutes.  “Lockdown, lockdown.”  That’s fun to say…

Anyway, we were told that we would not be able to start our round because, well, the course was on “lockdown.”  Our choices were to go to the driving range, or hang out in the clubhouse.  We opted for the range. 

On our way over, the sheer number of secret service agents in the area multiplied.  POTUS was near.

Then we were frisked.  Now, in law school, I was taught to pretty much never consent to a search by law enforcement.  But when a secret service agent with a wand stepped up and asked if she could search my bag, I said “sure.”  Besides, something told me this search was not optional….

As I looked at the range, I noticed a group of tee boxes in the corner that was roped off.  There were fancy pyramids of balls on every station in that area, and so naturally I got as close to them as I could.   If the President wasn’t gonna show up, I figured I might be able to snag a few free range balls while noone was looking. 

I grabbed a bucket of balls and started practicing.  A few minutes later, I kid you not, I looked over and saw the President hitting a nine-iron.   There was no Hail to the Chief played, no red carpets, no big announcement.  I just hit a ball, looked to my left, and saw he was there.  “Yep, that’s the President three tee boxes over.”  

A few things I noticed while I pretended not to stare: he was wearing Chicago White Sox golf shoes (Go Nats!), he’s a lefty (which makes sense), and he’s very, very skinny (Michelle really is a health freak…).   He only worked on his irons – which he hit quite well.  Meanwhile, all I was pretty much hitting at this point was my driver.  If it weren’t for this, and politics, we would have so much in common…

Anyway, after about 10 minutes, the President headed up to his cart.  As he did so, he walked past me at no more than five yards away.  I noticed everyone else on the range was staring, but no one said a word.  Knowing this was my chance to interact with the most powerful man in the world, I yelled in his direction the only thing that came to mind:  “HIT EM STRAIGHT, SIR!” 

Note:  I’ve often thought about what I would say to the President if I had the opportunity, and always figured it would be something profound and inspirational.  Yet when it came down to it, I yelled something so unsophisticated you would think I was one of those idiots who screams “GET IN THE HOLE!” after every shot Tiger Woods takes.  Nice. 

Immediately, the President turned around and walked right up to me.  With a surprisingly genuine tone and demeanor, he asked my name, we shook hands, and he thanked me for “all I do.”  It was a questionably delicate handshake, but I think that mostly stems from the fact that he was wearing a golf glove…

Now, we live in a world where nothing like this is true unless there’s a picture on Instagram to prove it, but I didn’t feel like interrupting the President’s round of golf to do so.    And even if I did, I’m not sure that there’s a wall in our house on which my wife (who makes a conservative like myself look like Arianna Huffington) would let it hang.  So no, there’s no picture of this.    

I have to say: the sincerity with which President Obama spoke and interacted with me was undeniable.   It felt like we were just two guys on a golf course – only, surrounded by countless secret service agents.    Heck, if there weren’t snipers with guns pointed directly at my chest, I may have given him a hug to consummate this newfound bro-mance. 

And then he hopped in his golf cart and took off with his group.  In case you’re wondering, the other people in the President’s group paid for themselves.   I know this because they were in front of us when we paid.  So, apparently, Executive Privilege doesn’t get you very far at the golf course. 

Oddly enough, this whole interaction wasn’t even the highlight of my day…

On the 11th hole, I noticed more and more unmarked government cars pulling up.  Looking around, I also saw more of those “golfers” with lots of stuff going on in their ears.  As I approached the green, an agent with a wand walks out and frisks all of us, and then checks our bags. ***

*** At no point did he ask for my consent – the hallmark of an unconstitutional search! 

Anyway, I’m about to putt and realize what all the fuss is about.  Standing at about 350 yards back, I see President Obama and his group standing at the tee box.  It suddenly hit me: the President of the United States was waiting for me.  “In that case I’m sorry, Mr. President, but you’re gonna have to wait.”  I took a few practice strokes as I soaked all this in, and revisited the greatest golf tip ever given:

And then I tapped it in. 

It’s not everyday you see the President.  But Saturday, on a golf course of all places, I ran into him twice.  More importantly, I got to escape time-outs and endless requests for “more juice” and “new shoes” on a nice day… for six glorious hours. 

Man do I love golf… 

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And so does Riley

 

A Toast to My First Real Month as a Father of Three

Within minutes of walking through the door from Rhode Island, I watched in amazement as my two-year-old daughter pulled up her shirt and attempted to breastfeed one of her dolls.  Right then, I knew my life was about to become crazier than ever. 

For those unfamiliar, I was training with the military in Rhode Island from January to late March.  Naval Justice School involved me waking up at 9am on Saturdays, popping leftover pizza in the microwave, and watching college hoops all weekend.  IT WAS BASICALLY SLAVERY!!!  

Meanwhile, Jackie was home caring for our newborn son, as well as herding our toddlers 24/7.  I’m sure you’re probably wondering what she, as a temporarily single stay-at-home mom, was doing all day…

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Must be nice
(courtesy of parentsociety.com)

Transitioning from the bachelor lifestyle in Rhode Island back to a father of three at home was about as brutal for me as, well, an episode of The Bachelor.  For instance, recently I introduced baby Brody to the bottle for the first time.  This experience began with me assuring my wife that “it’s cool, I got this” and ended with me screaming “JACKIE!  THIS ISNT WORKING!!!” ***

*** These days everyone seems to have a shirt that says “Keep Calm.”  Well, I want a shirt for occasions like this that says “MAYBE I DON’T WANT TO KEEP CALM!!!”

To make matters worse, Brody already has to deal with all that comes with being the youngest of three.   Indeed, Riley loves smothering him with open-mouth kisses, and Jimmy just loves smothering him.   Thankfully, he only cries when (a) he’s hungry, (b) he’s gassy, or (c) he sees Jimmy coming. 

And while Brody may not communicate often, his older brother sure does… 

First off, if Jimmy hears anything outside, he points to the sky and assures me it’s an “air-pane” (although half the time it’s actually our neighbor’s lawnmower).  When I get up with Jimmy early in the morning, he will continually ask for “Wiley” until she wakes up.  And finally, he thinks “no” is the proper answer to every question asked.  Watch:

Me: “Can I change your diaper?” Jimmy: “No!”

Me: “You wanna go to bed?”  Jimmy: “No!”

Nothing abnormal so far, but wait…

Me: “You want ice cream?” Jimmy: “No!”

Me: “You want chocolate cake?”  Jimmy: “No!” 

Clearly he has no idea what he’s missing… 

As for “Wiley,” well, she calls her mom “Jackie” (we’re working on this…), and her crib is something you would see on the show Hoarders.  She loves Greek yogurt more than John Stamos, and she eats her Oreos cream first – the way we do it in America!   

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Future Oikos spokeswoman

Furthermore, let me just say I can only read “The Nose Book” to Riley so many times before it DRIVES. ME. CRAZY!  Fortunately, I have a solution called the “Three Reads Rule.”  It goes like this: I will read any book she wants three times, and then I will physically throw that book as far as I can across the room.  If Riley goes and gets it (which she usually does), then I will read it another three times.  Every now and then, though, she finds something else to do… and it’s glorious. 

Don’t judge.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention bath time.  See, you would think that because I am now a Naval Officer, I would have some ability to control my little sailors while they’re in the water.  But you would be dead wrong.   Despite my orders not to do so, those kids genuinely love drinking bath water – especially when it’s flavored with bubbles.  Indeed, they wait until they think I’m not looking, and then they chug.  Come to think of it, they drink like Sailors! 

And now for a few words in remembrance of my last phone.   See, our kids love phones, and there are ample toddler-friendly apps for smartphones that tend to make dinnertime much more enjoyable.  However, this all comes at a steep cost.  Indeed, last week the date on my phone was June 3, 1981, and shortly thereafter it died forever.  So, if you want to know the kind of wear-and-tear two curious toddlers will put on your smartphone, then simply drop it in the nearest toilet bowl for an hour and see how it goes. 

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The cell phone in Jimmy’s hands is doomed…

PS: on a related note, if I haven’t talked to you in years but randomly “like” your Facebook post about how “awful” Verizon’s customer service is, then odds are it was Riley messing with my new phone.  Besides, I have far more insulting things to say about Verizon. 

Anyway.  We recently celebrated Jimmy and Riley’s second birthday – two years old!  When Jackie was pregnant, experienced parents would encourage us to “enjoy every moment” because it’s over “before you know it.”  And although I certainly do not “enjoy every moment” of fatherhood, I try to make myself aware of those special moments that are bigger than they originally seem…

The other night Riley was crying in her crib for a solid hour and a half, refusing to sleep.   So, I reluctantly marched up to her room and sang Mr. Big’s “To Be With You” until she fell asleep in my arms.  For about 30 minutes, I sat on the rocking chair and thought about how much more incredible Jackie and my journey has been since these kids came along for the ride.  This is how parenting apparently works – constant chaos sprinkled with the occasional realization that you would have it no other way. 

I’m thankful God has given me a gassy-but-happy baby, a daughter that loves “The Nose Book,” and a son that thinks your lawnmower is an “air-pane.” 

So grab a glass of bath water and let’s toast to a crazy month with Brody, Jimmy… and “Wiley” too.  Cheers! 

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***In Loving Memory of Jim’s Droid (2011-2013)*** 

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…

You Can’t Handle the Truth: Life at Naval Justice School

Lieutenant Junior Grade Jim Howland, reporting for duty. Kind of.

Well folks, the Navy has sent me back to Newport, RI to get my knowledge on at Naval Justice School – ten weeks of learning all the fun stuff that comes with being a military lawyer. More on that in a bit…

I left January 22, and I assure you I was in a glass cage of emotion. Leaving Jackie and the kids was incredibly hard for me – in fact, there may or may not have been tears as I hugged Jimmy and Riley goodbye. What?

Anyway, my sadness quickly turned into anger as I paid toll after toll after painful freaking toll heading north on Interstate 95. $6 to get out of Maryland. $13 to get through Delaware. The farther north I went, the more I shelled out. At one point, I actually considered this a violation of my Constitutional right to travel.

And this, my friends, is why people hate lawyers.

Eventually, in a moment of golden irony, I hit the New York City skyline right as Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ rendition of “Empire State of Mind” came on the radio. In retrospect, this was probably not a coincidence. Either way, the volume went up and so did my whiteness factor. What can I say? Big lights will inspire me.

Fortunately, I arrived at Naval Station Newport safe and sound. And pretty much broke.

So. First day of class, and there I am. Hopelessly lost in a room of about 25 Naval Officers and 35 Marines. I knew two of them. It took very little time for me to notice a stark contrast between the Marines and the Sailors. Allow me to expand a bit…

First, Marines just talk differently. They say “rah” all the time, regardless of the appropriateness. They all have crazy stories from Officer Candidate School and The Basic School, and they are not afraid to share them. During the first few months of college I would meet people who went to the same high school and always wanted to talk about how awesome their experience was. Well, that’s kind of how it feels when I’m around these guys. Fortunately, their stories are hilarious.

A few other things: they dip, they curse, and they are not your normal lawyers. In fact, they all hate it here, and would much rather be in the forest somewhere with their faces painted and a rifle in their hands. Oorah?

Anyway. Class begins at Zero Seven Thirty and goes until Seventeen Hundred. To clarify: we do absolutely nothing at Zero Dark Thirty, and the only thing being fired at us is PowerPoint Slides. But I assure you what we do is dangerous.

Here’s what we’ve learned how to do thus far:

-write wills (well, technically a computer program actually writes it);
-write letters (with fancy letterhead!); and
-write…more letters.

Perhaps you’ve noticed a theme.

We’ve also had a riveting debate over whether the Navy Correspondence Manual should require two spaces after a period, or just one. I for one am a fan of two spaces, but I tread carefully because this debate gets personal.

You may be thinking: when are we gonna learn how to bust “Code Reds” out of Guantanamo Bay? Well, we haven’t had that class yet. But I did spot a Code Red Mountain Dew at the Commissary. So that’s exciting.

On Thursday mornings, we partake in a fun little activity called “Pain Before Breakfast.” This is a five mile run at five thirty in the morning. Five. Freaking. Thirty. Of course, attending Pain Before Breakfast is entirely voluntary – kind of the same way you “voluntarily” get in the car when a mob boss pulls up and asks you to join him. And in case my Executive Officer happens to read this, I would like to go on record as saying I absolutely love Pain Before Breakfast and look forward to it every week. Smile.

Fortunately, Pain Before Breakfast is not the only way I strive to exercise – I’m also on the basketball team. For a good laugh, watch me play basketball. Seriously it’s hilarious.

As for Newport, it’s beautiful, but it’s cold. If the low temps don’t make you miserable, the wind will. Sometimes I drive literally across the street because, trust me, it’s worth it. I brought my golf clubs with me thinking I might be able to get out and play. Those poor clubs have been sentenced to solitary confinement in my trunk for the next seven weeks.

And speaking of confinement, I call Jackie (now 36 weeks pregnant) at night to check in on her and see how she’s hanging in there. Here’s how our nice little conversations go…

Me: so how was your day?
Jackie: it was fine. JIMMY, PUT THAT DOWN RIGHT NOW!
Me: Nice. What are you getting into tonight?
Jackie: I don’t know. RILEY, YOU DO NOT KICK YOUR BROTHER!
Jackie: HEY JIM, I GOTTA CALL YOU BACK. (click)

Good talk.

And as much as I miss the kids, I do not miss getting up with them at night. No chance. Eight hours of sleep is a glorious perk of my time here, and I know that when I come home we will have a newborn. Here’s another perk: I have a maid. And she’s awesome: she is a mother of two who works 5 days a week, and then goes to school at night because she wants to become a teacher. God bless ‘Murrica!

So that’s Naval Justice School. I’m just doing my part to kill the terrorists one legal ethics opinion at a time. More to come.

Code Red. Oorah. Over.

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