Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

Archive for the tag “twins”

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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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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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)*** 

Decorating A Baby Nursery (With Help From Top Gun)

When I first started this blog, my intended audience was other dudes who hadn’t had kids yet.  My goal was not to give advice, but to give warnings – all while speaking in a language that fellow cavemen would understand.  Well, women account for about 95% of my readership.  Turns out cavemen like reading about sports and other manly things.  Fair enough. 

With that in mind, I’m about to ride this blog right into the Danger Zone, as before you is a post about how I decorated our baby nursery.  And because I don’t want to lose the precious few male readers I have, I’m going to dress this up with quotes from one of the manliest movies I can think of – Top Gun. 
 
Note: I considered using quotes from an even manlier movie, Face/Off, but it turns out far too many of them contain the F word.  No dice. 
 
I know what you’re probably thinking: mixing Top Gun quotes with a post about decorating a baby nursery is dangerous.  Well, you’re right, Ice…man. I am dangerous.
 
Let’s rewind about one year, shall we?  It was a time when Jackie was right in the thick of her pregnancy.  Aside from the occasional Chinese food run, I was utterly useless.  Eventually, the opportunity presented itself to do one productive thing, and that was design the baby nursery.  This was my shot to contribute.  There was no danger, so I took it.**
 
**Actually that’s false: this was a very dangerous operation.  The nursery was extremely important to Jackie, and if I screwed it up she would have had me flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog (poo) out of Hong Kong!
 
The first thing I needed was a theme for the room.  For people who are having boy-girl twins, this one is a no-brainer: Noah’s Ark!  

I’m not really sure why a story about millions of people drowning to death makes such great fodder for nursery rooms, but somehow it does.  It’s probably because we tend to focus on the fact that Noah and his family got a spot on the Ark; and we tend not to focus on the fact that to all the other Ghost Riders on the planet, the pattern was full.  But who knows.     

Importantly, Noah brought along two of every unclean animal with him.  This is where twins and Noah’s Ark merge: two babies, two animals – obvious nursery theme.  Oh, and just so you know there’s also two “Os” in goose, boys… 

I knew I wanted to make the bottom half of the room into the ocean, and that the ark would go somewhere above the cribs.  Beyond that, I needed ideas.  A Google search turned up hundreds of different designs…

Some were a little too cheesy:

Where are the unicorns?

And some were a little too…scary:

Not exactly the Titanic

Eventually, I stumbled upon a simple ark theme that wouldn’t give the babies nightmares. I decided to run with it.

Ahh, just right.

At the time, the color of room was orange, so I primed it.  Then I began to trace the waves of the ocean on the wall.  This was where Jackie and I disagreed: she wanted perfectly uniform waves, and I wanted more spontaneous, random waves.  We debated for a good day or two over this.  Ultimately, I disregarded Jackie’s idea and went with mine…AND BROKE A MAJOR RULE OF ENGAGEMENT!

Once I had traced the waves onto the wall with a pencil, I painted the ocean and the sky with a big brush.  This covered the wall pretty good, but wasn’t as effective for the more detailed aspects of the design.  Ergo, I used a tiny brush to ensure the waves were nice and crisp.  I guess you could say I was too close for missiles, so I switched to guns.

Then I proceeded to draw the actual ark, which was trickier.  The ark I was going for had three layers, which I drew with a level.  The curves in the front and back of the ark had to be re-done many times, which was very time consuming.  In fact, one day I was playing beach volleyball in jean shorts and a sleeveless shirt (while listening to Kenny Loggins) but had to leave early so I could get home and keep working.  It’s true.

Once I finished painting the waves and the ark, I was feeling pretty good about the room. But then Jackie gently reminded me that there’s a rainbow in the Noah’s Ark story that just had to be included.** 

** I’ll note that at the end of the story (featured in Genesis), there’s also a bit about Noah getting drunk and passing out naked in a tent.  For some reason, Jackie didn’t want that part of the story represented in the nursery… 

So to recap: rainbow, in; drunk Noah sleeping naked in a tent, out.  Roger that.

Anyway, Jackie wanted the rainbow to be huge – spanning two walls.  The ark was gonna go over Jimmy’s crib, so this rainbow was Riley’s big feature.  When I told her how hard that would be, she said “Maverick, you big stud, paint the darn rainbow or lose me forever.”  Or words to that effect.

I thumb-tacked a piece of string to the wall, and drew a big semi-circle for the first ring of the rainbow.  Then I moved the same thumb tack up two inches on the wall, and drew another one.  I did this five times, and then painted the rainbow with five different colors.  You might be wondering what I was thinking at this point.  Let me just say that I didn’t have time to think up there. Indeed if you think, you’re dead. 

Then came the clouds.  Sigh.  Clouds, oddly enough, are really hard to draw.  The clouds I originally painted looked really, really stupid.  I re-did them and they still looked stupid.  Several re-dos later and I finally got it down.  Unfortunately, the precise manner in which I completed the clouds is Top Secret. I could tell you exactly how I did it, but then I’d have to kill you. 

At this point, the room looked pretty good but it needed animals.  Lots of animals.  That’s the whole point of the Noah’s Ark theme, right?  Well, we got some decals from Wal-Mart and placed them on the ark.  Then we got some stuffed animals and hung them on the wall.  Finally, the room was decorated.

But I wasn’t finished! Oh no…  I still had two cribs, a changing table, a rocking chair, and a dresser to assemble.  Doing all this would make any man lose that lovin’ feelin – I was no exception.  And let me just say that if I could communicate with the people who write the instructions for these things, I definitely would give them the bird.  You know, the finger. 

The last touch was taking the remaining decals from the nursery and putting them in the bathroom.  It was a simple way to tie in the nursery theme to the bathroom.  Then, Jackie thanked me for my help, and told me I could be her wingman anytime.      

(I think we all know what I said next…).

Here’s the finished product: 

And another…

You'll notice the color-coded closet. Yea, she's good...

And another…

Dang you, clouds!

 And one more…

Why can't we just call it Noah's Boat?

While the room probably doesn’t win first prize, fortunately for me there’s a plaque for the alternates down in the ladies room.  I’ll take it.  Now it’s time to celebrate…

“Tower, this is Ghost Rider requesting a flyby.”

Part Two: Beer and a Box of Pregnancy Tests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two tadpoles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His awesome story indeed. 

Traveling With Twins: How We Survived A Week In Paradise

A note to all the soon-to-be-dads out there: nothing will slap you in the face and make you realize how different life is with children than going on vacation with them.  Trust me.   

Last month, we went on a family trip to Jamaica (awesomely paid for by my mother-in-law) and stayed at an all-inclusive resort.  The trip was excellent.  But also kind of exhausting.   

Preparations commenced days before the trip even began.  Jackie and I went through a mental checklist of things the babies “needed” to have, which also got us thinking about all the things we wouldn’t have on the trip – things like exersaucers and electronic pianos and bouncy seats.  Oh my!

Even so, Jackie packed a lot of stuff.  Mind you, I used to go on trips with literally just a grocery bag, so you can imagine my disbelief when I discovered we were bringing the following items: two gigantic suitcases, two not-quite-as-gigantic suitcases, a backpack, a stroller, a diaper bag, and Jackie’s purse.  Hooray baggage fees!

Here’s how it went down: we woke up at 3:30am, left at 4am, and got to the airport at 5am.  We were hoping the babies would be asleep the whole time, but one sure thing about vacations is that they throw sleep routines out the window from the moment they begin. 

Note: there are three sleep routine killers: vacations, Daylight Savings Time, and grandparents. That is a scientific fact.

Anyway.  We were sure to bring passports for the babies so they would be legit. 

Fast forward.  We’re checked in.  Next major obstacle?  Getting through security. 

Before we had kids, pretty much the only thing I ever worried about when going through security was whether or not my socks matched.  But with two babies and a million bags, there are far more important things to consider.  Things like… 

– What the heck am I supposed to do with this gigantic stroller?

– How am I gonna take off my shoes while holding a baby and placing bags onto the conveyor belt?

– Are there chemicals in this baby formula that will trigger a TSA pat-down?

Ahh!!!!!!!!!!!

Somehow we got through and on to the gate.  Once we get there, the kids are being pretty loud, but I have coffee at this point so it doesn’t really bother me.  And then I hear: “would Mr. Howland please approach the ticketing counter?” Oh boy… 

Note: I have never heard my name over the loudspeaker at an airport and had it be a good thing.  I’m gonna go ahead and say that unless you’re on standby, hearing your name at an airport is pretty much always a bad thing. 

So anyway, I hear the guy say something about how (I’m paraphrasing) “somebody’s flight somehow got mixed up and (blah, blah, blah), so I regret the inconvenience but you have been moved to the very back of the plane.”  Translation: your family’s gonna be obnoxious, so sit in the back and like it.   

Note: we actually did like it.  I would much rather be in the back of the plane where crying is drowned out by the sound of a ridiculously loud engine, and the babies can roam free.  So my whole theory about hearing my name over the loudspeaker is pretty much false…

Before we had kids, I slept on planes.  (Sigh…).  That was nice.  Now I hold babies.  On this particular trip, I got to sit with Riley, who hates sitting still!  I spent a decent portion of the plane ride on the ground, playing with her and allowing her to crawl through the aisle. 

Internal monologue: I used to see people doing these things and thought about how ridiculous they looked.  But then again I’m a big fan of American flag ties, Hawaiian shirts and fanny packs, so I guess I’m just carrying on a long history of looking ridiculous. 

Internal monologue continued: but seriously, there’s nothing ridiculous about American flag ties…

Well, we finally made it to Jamaica.  Normally when we arrive at all-inclusives the first thing I do is snag about six pieces of pizza from the kitchen and order a strawberry-banana daiquiri from the bar.  But now before I do any of that I need to make sure the hotel knows that we need two cribs in our room. 

“No, no, TWO cribs…twins…”

 After a great dinner, everyone is tired.  It’s a good night for everyone pack it up early and get some sleep.  And by “sleep” I mean stay up and party all night.  I’m serious.  You would have thought we laced their bottles with Red Bull.  Remember what I said about vacations throwing everything off?  It’s soooo true.      

A message to dudes out there who don’t have kids and think it’s ridiculous that new parents always talk about bedtime/naptime routines: you’ll be here soon, young grasshoppers.     

By 6:00am Jimmy was asleep and Riley was awake, so I took her out to breakfast where I notice lots of young couples with their infants/little children.  We didn’t sit together, and we didn’t talk to each other, but we all gave each other that forced “I-know-why-you’re-miserable” smile.  We’re all just parenting in paradise… 

I also talked to a woman who told me that there was a free nursery at the resort, and that she used to take her baby there during the day.  I asked: “IT’S FREE?”  Then I told Jackie about the nursery and she pretty much goes: “WAIT! IT’S FREE?”

That’s my wife!

Since this is not just a vacation story but also a survival story, let me just say that the resort nursery was our lifeline.  We took them in there from 1pm-5pm.  Until then, it was the storm before the calm.  In fact, one day, I asked Jackie what time it was.  A few minutes later I asked again.  Then I got busted.

Jackie:  “are you counting down the minutes until the babies go to the nursery?”  

Me: “uhh… no?”

When the babies weren’t in the nursery, they were in the sand.  Literally.   Of course, before we went out to the beach, we had to apply gallons and gallons of sunscreen.  See, Jackie usually gets the kids dressed and ready to go places, but because she hates putting on sunscreen and the kids get their pale complexion from me, she “allows” me to do it.  We cover them good: hats, sun shirts, etc.  At the beach, those babies looked more like they were going paintballing. 

And here’s another problem: one night Jimmy literally didn’t sleep.  He cried uncontrollably in our room for hours, and the only thing that calmed him down was fresh air.  So, at 2:30am, I grabbed the stroller and walked him for about an hour.  He eventually fell asleep in his stroller, and I slept on a loveseat in the lobby.  Turns out he had a fever…FOR MORE COWBELL!!!**

**Actually, he had an ear infection.  True story.  A cowbell probably would have made things worse…

Some lessons learned from our big trip:

1. Jamaican ants are attracted to baby formula.  Fortunately, Jackie doesn’t believe in killing ants… she believes in genocide!

2. Saying “respeck mon!” instead of “thank you” gives you a little bit more street cred in Jamaica. 

Note: but every time I said “respeck mon” people looked at me funny…

3. Riley loves having ice cream and cheese fries served to her on the beach.  And who wouldn’t? 

4.  Jamaicans are great dancers, but nerdy white guys like me can still teach them a thing or two!    It’s a good thing there’s paradise in parenting, because parenting in paradise can feel like it’s anything but. 

Jamaica: we came (with babies). We saw. We…survived.

This picture pretty much sums up the week perfectly

How We Deal With Twins That Basically Never Sleep

One thing I’ve learned over the past 8 months is that sleeping with twin babies in the house takes patience and prayer.  And sometimes alcohol.

Look, all babies have a way of changing nighttime routines; I get that.  But twins provide a one-two punch that’s hard to match.  One will cry, the other will sleep.  And then they switch.  Basically, they’re working shifts.

Lack of sleep has been my toughest adjustment to fatherhood.  Nothing else even comes close.   I miss sleep so, so much.**

**Obligatory mention of the fact that I love my babies to death and they are worth every minute of lost sleep.  But still.

For the first six or seven weeks, our house was like an IHOP – we were serving breakfast 24 hours a day.  Jackie would generally care for the babies downstairs from about 11pm – 4am (while I slept upstairs), and we would switch from about  4am-7 or 8am.  On a good night, Jackie was getting 3 or 4 hours.  I generally got 4 or 5 hours.  Hello coffee.  

Being upstairs in bed while the babies were downstairs with Jackie felt like I was at home base during an intense game of capture the flag.  For the time-being, I was safe.  But not for long…

I remember one morning Jackie came in the bedroom and told me it was my turn to watch the kids.  She then got into bed, closed her eyes, and said “ahhh…glory.”  That’s exactly what it was like.   

What made it even worse?  This whole thing went down during the dregs of the sports calendar (June-August).  SportsCenter is terrible this time of year, and the news cycle is unbelievably slow.  Pretty much all there was to watch was (a) shows about people buying/fixing houses, (b) fly-fishing, and (c) NBA/NHL reruns.  I generally opted for the NBA reruns, but I have to admit I watched quite a few shows about buying houses. 

Oh, I forgot option (d): infomercials.  In case you’re interested, I could probably tell you anything you would ever want to know about the Ionic Breeze Air Purifier.

Anyway.  After a few months the babies began sleeping in their own cribs, and Jackie and I were sleeping in our own bed.  The problem was that the sleep was being interrupted every 45 or 50 minutes.  Let me just go on the record as saying this is the worst kind of sleep ever.  If faced with the choice, I’d take 4 straight hours of sleep over 8 hours of sleep interrupted on a semi- hourly basis any day of the week. 

And it was during this phase that my hatred for the device they call “the monitor” began. 

Many parents of babies learn to hate the monitor very quickly.  Why? Because baby monitors are essentially alarm clocks without a snooze button.  They’re evil!  They’re also pointless – those babies scream loud enough for my out-of-state parents to hear them at night.  Nothing adds to the frustration of screaming babies like a device that works to amplify an already ridiculously loud sound.  Remember: the monitor is on your baby’s side – not yours!

Our monitor comes with three settings:  constantly on; on when there’s a sound in the room; and off.  If it were up to me, that thing would always be off.  But we compromised on the middle setting – it’s on when they cry.   So for a while, it was pretty much always on. 

Here’s how bedtime worked: we would put the kids down at about 10pm.  Bath, bottle, prayer (“Dear God please let us all get some sleep tonight” was a common one…).  They would fall asleep, and we would plop them in bed.  As my bride would say: “Ahhh.  Glory!”

But this was always the calm before the storm.  Within an hour, one of them would scream.  And scream. And scream!  (The monitor picks up this sound quite nicely).  We got up so many times every night just to calm them down and feed them.  And just when you got one down, the other one would wake up.  This would carry on until about 6am when one of us would surrender to the babies.  For a while, my first words in the morning were “ok, ok, you win.”  In the battle between sleep and babies, babies always win.

This process was physically brutal.  Literally!  Early one morning after Jackie went to feed Jimmy, I heard a loud crash. 

Note: anytime you hear “that sound” (and parents know exactly what that sound is…), you panic.  It’s a distinct, unmistakable thump.  When you hear it, something is always wrong.    

Ok, back to the story.  I’m lying in bed (half asleep) and I hear “that sound.” I ran into the hallway half expecting to see Jimmy fallen on the floor.  But Jimmy was in bed.  It was Jackie.  She ran right into a wall and broke her nose.  Sometimes those walls just come out of nowhere!  

At about five months, we got out of bed one morning and collectively said “oh-my-gosh-we-need-to-do-something-about-this-nighttime-thing-before-we-lose-our-minds.”  If your babies don’t sleep through the night, chances are you’ve been here.  So the research began…

We reached out to many of the people reading this blog.  My cousin (who has twins) gave us some great advice.  The rest we got from “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” – a book I highly recommend.  We ultimately decided that a modified “cry it out” plan was best:  feed them once a night, and let them scream the rest of the way. 

Let me just say something about the “cry it out” method: it’s hard.  It basically entails hearing your babies cry and not doing anything about it.  The idea is that in the long run, they learn how to calm themselves down and ultimately sleep better.  It’s a tried and true method.  But while you’re going through it, it’s pure misery. 

Jackie would often stand right outside their door as they cried, thinking of excuses to go in.  Here are some: he’s hungry, she’s sick, he’s going through a “growth spurt” right now, they’re cold, etc… 

 Note: if you’re a dude, and you somehow manage to come out this process without looking or sounding like a heartless fool, then you are a better man than me.  

Also: if you and your wife intend to let your baby/babies cry it out at night, you had better come up with a good answer to the question “how can you just let them cry like that and not go in there?”  There’s a 100% chance you will be answering it.  Choose your answer ahead of time, and choose it wisely… 

Anyway.  Riley responded well to the cry it out method. In fact, she was already sleeping through the night off and on.  Jimmy, however, was a different story.  He hated it.  Oh, and he let us know it too. 

The craziest part about this whole thing was that Jimmy would scream (ridiculously loud, and sometimes for 40 minutes in a row), and Riley would sleep right through it.  It was amazing! I have to wonder if she ever told Jimmy, in her baby language, to give it up.  Something like: “hey, Jimmy, they’re not coming for us so why don’t you just give it up!”  To this day Jimmy fights the good fight.

So.  Here are some things we tried that didn’t work: keeping them up late so that they would sleep in, feeding them just before we went to bed so they wouldn’t wake up for a while, and not giving them naps late in the afternoon so they would be more tired.  Let those babies sleep as much as possible!

Oh by the way: babies know when you’re hung-over – even if only slightly.   I’m just sayin.  If you don’t believe me, try having a few drinks with your wife one night and see how things go the next morning.  Babies just know.

The result of the cry it out method?  Generally positive.  For a while, they were going to bed consistently around 7:30, which is nice because Jackie and I are finally getting some time to hang out.  Jimmy still wakes up once or twice a night, and we have never been able to get both of them sleep all the way through.  We don’t always get them in bed at the same time (for instance, last night Jimmy went down at 7pm and Riley went down just after 10).  But, praise the Lord, it’s much better than it was before.  One of these nights, Jackie and I will both go to sleep at 11pm and wake up at 7am.  In all likelihood, that will be the night they decide to sneak out of the house.    

We aren’t out of the woods yet.  Jimmy reminded us of that on our recent trip to Jamaica (the topic of a soon-to-come blog post).  As for sleeping, older parents love to say things like “it gets better in about 22 years.”  Thanks for that. 

In the meantime, I’ll plan on sleeping when I’m dead.  Of course, that assumes Heaven is a place with no baby monitors. 

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