Football and the Family Dynamic

Image: Augie Schwer‘s photostream via Creative Commons

Next weekend is the official beginning of college football, and I don’t mind telling you that I’m a bit concerned that my entire season (both college and pro) could be in danger. So this past weekend, I decided to take matters into my own hands which struck my wife as curious, indeed.

“What are you doing?”

“Watching an NFL pre-season football game, honey.”

“Why? You never watch pre-season football.”

“I’m practicing.”

“Practicing?”

“Yes. Practicing. Last year it was hard to watch football, what with the triplets constantly creating such mayhem. Now that we’ve added Grand Finale to the roster, I figure it’ll be even harder. And since the college season kicks off next weekend, I figured I’d better practice.”

[continue reading over at Babble]

5 Years With Caroline

It was exactly five years ago when I married my beautiful Caroline. And I remember the day vividly. Every aspect of it. And, believe it or not, the thing that sticks out most isn’t the part where we said “I do.” Nor is it the reception. Or even that first night we spent as man and wife. Nope. The thing that sticks out is sitting with my soon-to-be stepdaughter in one of the church’s meeting rooms as I nervously pondered my future. It was all about to change, and I vowed that I’d be ready for whatever it was that would come my way. Yet try as I might, there was simply no way I could have ever imagined everything I was about to get.

[Read more...]

Caroline Discusses Her Pregnancy (Video)

You know what I thought would be fun? To make a video of me interviewing Caroline about her pregnancy while we were on Spring Break this past March. It was to be called “Lifestyles of the Hitched and Aimless — The Barefoot and Pregnant Edition” and was sure to be equal parts charm and hilarity. Yet as we tried to film it? Neither one of us was feeling it, so we nixed it. But this past weekend, we decided to give it another go, only without the whole fancy-name bit — just a good-ol fashioned interview in which we hoped to showcase a bit of the playful banter in which we often engage.

[Read more...]

My Brush With Greatness

Last night was quite a treat for me. At the kickoff reception for the M3Summit, I got to hear Cal Ripken, Jr. speak up close and personal.

And if this picture taken by Lovie is any indicator, I must have developed a bit of a man crush on the former big-leaguer.

Wow! Then what happened, Cal? *bats eyelashes*

Simply smitten, no? So much so, I got all flustered and forgot to “pose” with Cal. So I did what anyone would do. I waited patiently for the next person to finish with the Hall of Famer, then briefly explained what happened and asked if he’d mind if I posed with him for a quick shot. One of his handlers, however, seemed to think my request was a little aggressive. Or maybe he thought it was a bit frenetic. Because he said “Whoa, fella. Relax. You must drink a lot of coffee.”

Not even sure what that meant, but, hey, at least I got the pic.

cal's tall. i'm short.

After my the pic with Cal, Lovie and I thanked the coffee-comment guy for letting us cut back in. He must have liked Lovie more than me. “Do you know how beautiful your wife is?” he asked.

“Why do you think I drink so much coffee?” I countered. “Gotta stay alert.”

Cal was extremely personable and his people were fantastic, too. Coffee guy included. All of our back and forths were very tongue and cheek. Good clean fun. Lovie and I had a wonderful time and are both really looking forward to the rest of the conference.

Happy Campers

Marriage. Lotta hard work, no? To have a successful one, much compromise is needed. At least that’s what Lovie and I have found. Perhaps the most amazing middle ground we’ve ever reached is the very one upon which we slept this past weekend.

You see, I’m an avid camper. I go at least four times a year. One of those excursions is my annual section hike of the Appalachian Trail. When we first met, Lovie thought such trips sounded miserable.

“My idea of camping out is ordering room service from the Ritz Carlton.”

Secretly, I vowed to change that. And I had a plan. The vehicle of change? Pookie. That’s right. I used my own stepdaughter as a pawn to capture the queen so I could drag her royal ass to the woods. And it worked like a charm. After all, Pookie, like virtually all kids who are given the chance, was hooked on camping from word go.

“I’d rather camp than go to Hilton Head” was her exact quote upon returning from our first outing. Lovie’s eyes grew wide with wonder. Soon after, she began asking countless questions about this noble outdoor pursuit, questions my ears recognized as buying signs.

“Where do you go to the bathroom?”

“How do you cook your food?”

“How do you stay warm?”

“What do you do during the day?”

Instead of capitalizing on these questions and trying to score an immediate sale, I simply answered them, hoping my explanations would lead this inquisitive horse to the very water she wondered how I purified. (Note to readers — stay away from analogies that depict your wife as a horse. It’s okay for me to do it because I’m a highly trained professional.) I had a hunch that no hard sell would be needed. This product was capable of selling itself.

Which is exactly what it did. Lovie and I have camped together a grand total of three times. Until this weekend, that is, when we went on our fourth excursion — our second as a family. We made arrangements for the triplets (thanks, Brenda!) so Lovie and I could take Pookie and her friend, Miss M, for a fun-filled weekend in the woods. Here’s how it went down.

We took two cars. Lovie, Pookie, and Miss M rode in one and met me at the campsite around five. Me? I left early Friday morning to procure a spot and get our camp set up. So I took all our stuff.

the stuff

Oh. And our canoe. I was also responsible for that, too.

I had the perfect campsite in mind, located in an area I know inside and out. But I also had a backup — actually two backups — just in case. As fate would have it, however, we got our number one choice. It’s one of my favorite spots in the world. Look how clean the water is.

the perfect campsite

As soon as I got there, I started setting up. I divided the camp into two main sections — an area where our tent would be, and another area where we’d spend most of our waking hours. Check out our kitchen, complete with an eight foot by eight foot pop-up, where we kept a five foot table, our large plastic tubs of dried food, as well as our coolers which contained the rest of our food. It was there where I set up my camp stove which I’d use to cook my award-winning bacon and eggs. Below the kitchen, you’ll see the makeshift grill I put together. After all, if you wanna eat well in the woods, you gotta do some grilling.

Lovie rummaging through the kitchen

Just below our grill was the fire ring. Solid choice on the locale if I do say so myself. Right on the water.

Here’s a shot of our preposterously large tent which has three rooms. One for Lovie and me.

Turn left from there and you’ll find an empty room. Well, empty except for some of Pookie and Miss M’s stuff spilling out into it. One day the trips will kick it there.

Then, turn right and you run into the room where Pook and M slept.

Here’s our site from the water. Note the tent on the higher ground to the left separate from the rest of camp.

Something crucial for any extended campout? Activities. Lovie likes to fish, y’all.

exhibit a

With all of her angling activity, she earned a new nickname.

Catfish.

She’s really taken to it. If you’re at the M3Summit in Atlanta, be sure to call her by the new moniker. (Especially if you wanna see me get slapped.)

exhibit b: ol' Catfish tries a different spot.

The girls preferred another activity — canoeing. They had a blast.

I found an activity I like, too.

is drinking cold beer an activity?

But our main activity was the one which ate up most of Saturday — whitewater rafting down the Nantahala River, just a forty-five minute drive from camp. Eight miles of excitement and fun.

we caught a little air on that one.

Did we eat well?

three NY strips w/ twice baked potatoes and asparagus

Um, yeah. We ate just fine. But just when I thought we’d had enough food for the day, Pookie and M went poking around in the kitchen.

Because they knew we’d not forgotten to bring s’mores. And they were right.

It took a lot of work to pull off such a wonderful weekend, nearly as many hours planning, commuting, setting up, and breaking down as the actual hours spent on the trip itself. Some would contend that it’s too much work.

Miss M has Lovie and Pookie in stitches with her ghost story about a tomato.

But I would disagree. After all, there’s something to be gained from camping which you just can’t get from ordering room service at the Ritz. Just ask Catfish. She’ll tell you.

Thank you, Lovie, for meeting me more than halfway on this one. With each trip, we’re building memories which will last forever.

I love you.

Happy Anniversary, Lovie

lovie and me moments after arriving at our reception.

Exactly four years ago from today, Lovie and I stood at the alter in front of Dr. William Barron in a small chapel inside Sequoyah Presbyterian Church and made a solemn oath before God and fifty of our closest friends and family members. To love, honor and cherish one another for the rest of our lives. With only Alli by our side, the three of us became one that day, completely unaware that we’d double the size of our family in thirteen scant months thanks to a triple blessing which no one could have ever predicted.

Simply put, I’m incredibly in love with my beautiful wife and my four wonderful children. I’m also genuinely humbled by the good fortune bestowed upon me and so thankful to have the opportunity to be the patriarch of our unique clan. None of it would have ever come to pass had the love of my life not uttered those two magical words while holding my sweaty hands and looking directly into my eyes with her beautiful, bright blue ones.

To pay homage, a quick recap of our marriage by the numbers:

13 — years of parenting. (9 w/ the trips and 4 with Pookie)
12 — total pounds of babies Lovie birthed on 9/29/07. (actually 12.4375, but I rounded down.)
11 — total weeks of bedrest.
10 — times per day I annoy Lovie.
9 — times per day I annoy myself.
8 — individual shoes our children require.
7 — times Lovie will ask me why I uploaded such a lame picture of us for this post.
6 — times I’ll tell her it was the only wedding pic I had on this computer. (I’ll be asleep the seventh time she asks me, therefore unable to respond.)
5 — weeks of hospitalized bedrest.
4 — gallons of milk we go through per week.
3 — glorious births.
2 — houses owned.
1 — crazy-ass dog.
0 — percentage chance we’ll ever get divorced.

Happy anniversary, Lovie! I love you so much!

Last Summer

Pookie’s already back in school. So are the trips, for that matter. Yesterday was their first day. Ever.

It’s hard to believe, but in mere weeks we’ll be referring to the beautiful season that just slipped through our fingers as last summer.

Only I’m not quite ready to let it go yet. So I paid homage to it. In part so I could relive it whenever I felt the urge to do so. If you’ve got three minutes, I hope you’ll relive it with me.

It was a good summer, y’all. I’m gonna miss it.

My Interview With Lovie

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows how charming and feisty Lovie is. From my words, at least.

But don’t you think it’s about time you saw for yourself? Watch this video and tell me she’s not priceless. You may need to keep your volume up, though. She’s kinda hard to hear, but well worth the effort…

Some Birthday Lovie

It’s a special day, everyone. It’s Lovie’s birthday, and she’s 41 as lovely as ever.

We have a nice little day planned. We’re gonna run a bunch of errands this morning then load everyone up and head to the pool this afternoon where we’ll probably end up eating dinner. Pookie and I have gotten Lovie a few presents and there’ll also be a cake involved which I baked from scratch.

Okay, that’s bullshit. But I did buy it from Kroger. Okay, that’s bullshit, too. But I am about to buy one from Kroger while we run our errands.

But this birthday, Lovie gets more than a handful of presents and a cake. This birthday, Lovie gets a public shoutout on my modest blog. I could go on and on and list the dozens of reasons why she’s so incredible, why she’s the one for me. I could talk about what a wonderful mother she is. I could give you testimonials from her friends that would attest to the unique goodness which abounds from her. I could tell you what a patient and understanding wife she is, and how supportive she is during times of stress, transition, and grief.

But instead, all I’m gonna tell you is this: I love Lovie, y’all. With all of my heart and soul. And as thankful as I am for this wild ride we’re on, I’m even more thankful, still, that I get to sit right next to her for every little part of it.

Happy Birthday, Lovie.

I love you.

15-Lovie

Lovie’s got a new gig. In February of 2009 she started playing tennis pretty regularly with some of her friends, but it was more for fun than anything else. Four months ago, however, she upped the ante and joined a USTA team which requires her to play several times a week. Lovie’s a tennis star now.

Lovie? Is that you?

So I’ve given her a new nickname. Evonne Goolagong.

A couple of years ago, when she was still Lovie, we had a little spell where we played a handful of times over a three-week period. During those matches, two things were evident.

First, Lovie is an excellent athlete, whose fluid motion and graceful coordination translate well on the tennis court.

But second, she was no match for yours truly, lucky to win even one game in a combined two sets.

Recently we decided to play again, and I must say, I wondered how she’d fare as Evonne. After all, between the USTA matches, social games, and lessons, Lovie’s smacking the yellow ball up to four, sometimes five times a week. Word is she’s one of the best if not the best on her team, having lost only once in all the USTA matches she’s played.

Me? I’ve not picked up a racquet since the last time we faced each other. Oh. Did I mention I’ve not worked out regularly in months? Still, the lopsided nature of our previous contests had me convinced she’d pose no real threat to actually beat me. Right?

Right.

I beat her 6-2, 6-3, and it should have been 2 and 1. I was serving, up 5-1, 30-love, just two points away from the match when something happened. I suffered a meltdown on court number three. I dropped that game and the next one, after which she let out a celebratory scream, complete with fist pump. Such an outburst bothered me. Greatly. Fueled by anger, I waxed her the next game, and walked off the court with a less-than fulfilling 6-2, 6-3 victory. The sinking feeling in my gut combined with the confident smile plastered on her face for the next four hours made me wonder who the real winner was.

Lovie means business.

One thing was clear. Lovie’s way better than she used to be. It doesn’t matter how hard I serve, or where I place the ball. It’s coming back. Same thing with ground strokes. The woman gets everything. To win a point, I have to hit three shots that would have been winners against her in the past. Combine all that with the extra five (alright, twelve) pounds of JCO I’m hauling around these days? She’s a tough out to say the least.

About a week later, we played again. Lovie took the opening game. It was the first time she had ever held a lead on me. She won the next game, too. And the next. And the next. I was serving love-four before I even knew what hit me.

No worries, though. I’ve been in that spot a few years back. I was once down the exact same score to an ex girlfriend before storming back to victory. During a pivotal point, I charged the net before becoming the victim of a perfectly placed lob. Lucky to get it, I lobbed it back, and played the rest of the point the same way–hitting lobs, each effort even higher than the previous one. My last lob nearly brought rain and landed right on the line, bouncing so high, she literally couldn’t even get a racquet on it.

“You play dirty,” she said.

“What’s that?” I asked holding my racquet up to my ear? “Fifteen-thirty?”

Comforted by the recollection of that clutch effort, I stepped up and won the next three games in convincing fashion. Crisis averted, right?

Wrong. Lovie took the next two games, and won the first set 6-3. Thanks to a time constraint, the second set was a truncated one. I lost, 3-2. Lovie had done it not once, but twice. I left the court none too pleased.

Two hours later, I dialed her cell.

“That was bullshit. I want more.”

“Relax, honey. It’s just a game.”

“Don’t tell me to relax. Get your candy-ass to the court.”

“Honey, let it go.”

“What’s wrong, Evonne? Scared?”

“No.”

“What, then? Big engagement down unda? Got some shrimp to put on the barbie, do ya, mate?”

“If I play again, will you shut up?”

“See you in ten minutes, Lady Goolagong.”

Simply put, I never had a chance. My game was a wreck, and Lovie continued to play lights out. 6-3, 6-3.

As I walked off the court, I couldn’t help but wonder how I had  actually lost. Was it her serve? Because they are hard to return. After all, her meager offerings come at me so slow I’m literally forced to stand on the service line just to be close enough to get it before it bounces a second time. It’s reminiscent of a ball gently lobbed by a four year old girl. With her left hand.

Have you ever tried to hit such a serve? While mad? I landed out of bounds more times than Ben Roethlisberger at a Florida bar during spring break.

I know what you’re thinking. All y’all love Lovie, and you’re on her side. You can’t believe what a jerk I’m being. Well I got news for you. I’m far from the sore loser this post paints me to be. I realize full well that I lost to a better player.

Forget that I had more unforced errors than Britney Spears multiplied by Lindsay Lohan. Squared.

Forget that I hit more balls out than a juiced up Barry Bonds.

She won. Fair and square.

Even if, on that particular day, I couldn’t have held my serve with the jaws of life. The outcome had way more to do with what she did than what I did.

Even if I did hit the net more times than gang of drunken trapeze artists.

I’ll get her next time. In fact, I predict a spanking.

It’s just that I’m not sure who’ll be the one administering it just yet.

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