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Wide White: March 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

Reflections from a rookie dad

Last week, Andrew posted 3 tips from his first week as a dad.

It made me reflect on the 6.5 weeks under my belt. Being the oldest of 11, I'm no stranger to infants. But I've never dealt with twins or been a father, so in many ways this is all completely new.

Here are a few thoughts from my experience so far.

1. If you're an introvert, twins are not for you! My wife noted this yesterday as we were stopped again (and again and again...) by someone fawning over the kids or relaying their story of having twins or knowing someone who has twins. This happens EVERYWHERE we go with them! At times, I hear an, "Aww, look at the twins!" and I just keep walking. There just isn't time to stop and respond to each one. Twins don't double the attention you attract in public; I'm convinced they quadruple it at a minimum!

2. It's okay to do things with your kids you formerly thought you'd NEVER do. For example, I thought it was "against the rules" to sleep with your kid (SIDS, smothering, etc.). I learned that when it's 4:00 AM, you had 3 hours of sleep the night before, and a child who just ate and has a clean diaper is still crying when you lay them in their crib because they really just want to be held, you hold them. And because you're utterly exhausted, you hold them in bed. And you fall asleep, and so do they, and they sleep longer with you than in their crib, and you both wake up much happier. (And yes, there are ways to hold them - on your shoulder is a start - without risking smothering them.)

3. 90% of the gadgets at Babies R Us won't work on your kid. 10% will. Your mission is to find that 10%. Carson likes the swing and pacifier. Keira doesn't hate them, but doesn't respond as well. Neither does well with the bouncers (being bounced on Daddy's knees is much better). I haven't found the mobile or light/white-noise-maker to be real effective, though they aren't completely useless. The bottom line is you (or your friends and family at your baby showers) will spend a lot of money if you want to and will be maddened at how little of what you buy actually works. Which brings me to my next point...

4. 90% of what does work on your kid, you really don't need anyway. This counts for the smallest and most seemingly essential of items. Take pacifiers, for example. Carson sucks my finger to the bone. This is especially important for the expensive items. Take baby monitors, which run well over $100 for the nicer ones. We don't own one and don't plan to. Unless you're in a large house or go outside while your kid is asleep, you don't need it. People survived for thousands of years without plastic and believe it or not, you can too! And for those items you decide you can't do without, you typically can't use them for more than 1-3 years anyway, so whatever you do, utilize Craigslist! (Our nursery is 100% Craigslist and came from 4 different sources - 2 cribs, a dresser, a dresser/hutch/changing table, and a glider/ottoman, all of which match and cost less than what the glider/ottoman would have cost brand new alone.)

5. Just because it worked for your kid does not mean it will work for mine. And vice versa. Advice is great - after all, I'm giving advice right now. But all advice is just that. There's very little about raising a child that is absolute. I have tremendous appreciation for this with twins, as I'm constantly amazed at how phenomenally different my children are. If two kids with the same parents and such similar genes are so different, how much more different are my kids from my friends' kids? Give and take advice with a grain of salt and don't be too upset when the latest solution you give or take fails to work.

6. There is no greater joy on earth than being a parent! You're hopefully at a place of increased maturity with your spouse so that your love for one another is deeper than ever, and now you add a child (or two or three). That helpless child needs and trusts you 100% in a way that nobody - not even your spouse - ever has. A sense of independence is lost, but there's a new sense of completion as you see your life come full circle in many ways.

I still have much to learn, reflect on, and pass along. Perhaps some of these feelings will dissipate with time. But for now, I'm relishing every minute of my new life as a dad.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Christianity and the health reform debate

I've read a few posts to the effect of, "If Christians believe in helping the poor, why are so many of them against the health reform package?"

These posts have made me mad, and that madness has nothing to do with my position on the reform package itself.

The left has long criticized the Christian right for letting politics mirror their religion. Frankly, a lot of the criticism has been warranted. The role of government is not to allow us an outlet to legislate our religious beliefs.

But that's what's so wrong about the argument being presented regarding health insurance reform. To say that we should support the reform package because the Bible says to help the poor is the same thing as saying we should oppose gay marriage because the Bible says homosexuality is wrong.

We can't use legislative action to disseminate our religious views. We like to and we often do but it's not right and it must stop.

That goes for both sides of the aisle.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another year, another bracket, and some Obama love

Today begins the best sporting event of the year. I'll likely post bracket updates as we go.

If you want to know who I picked, you can pretty much look at President Barack Obama's bracket. The president and I are very much on the same page here.

We have the exact same Final Four, championship game, and champion. We have 7/8 Elite Eight picks that are the same. The biggest difference is the opening round, where he predicted a few too many 12- and 13-seed upsets in my opinion.

Round-by-round, here are our comparisons with the differing picks in parentheses:

27/32 (UNLV/UNI, Vandy/Murry St, Temple/Cornell, Texas A&M/Utah St., Purdue/Siena)
13/16 (Xavier/Pitt, Notre Dame/Baylor, Purdue/Utah St./Texas A&M)
7/8 (West Virginia/Marquette)

So that's it for now. Here's to enjoying the best sporting event of the year! And may everyone's brackets this year be better than they were last year...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Yosemite National Park 2005

The best summer of my life was in 2005. I had the best job in the world giving tours, nature walks, campfires, amphitheater programs, etc. and I got to do it in the most beautiful place in the world.

My grandma was born in Yosemite National Park while her dad was working there back in 1936. My grandparents continue to make trips back there every few years. In 2005, they brought all of their kids and their kids' spouses to the park for a week. My grandpa's sister from North Carolina came along for the ride too.

I assembled photos from my grandpa and two uncles and put together a video for them to remember their vacation. We were able to play it for everyone at our family reunion over Thanksgiving 2006.

Since then I've been asked numerous times to send this to everyone via file or DVD or something. So, for the sake of everyone who's been asking, here's the video. And yes, digital camera technology has come a long way in 5 years...

Click this link to watch The Whites in Yosemite National Park 2005 directly on

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Home values

My wife and I have owned our home for 2 years as of less than 2 weeks ago. While we bought at a point where the market had already dropped quite a bit and we paid $50,000 less than the original list price, values haven't exactly gone up since, so I pay close attention to the value of my neighbors' homes that sell.

Two houses in my townhouse complex have sold in the last month. One was originally purchased in 2002 for $178,500. It sold 2 weeks ago for $150,000. The second was originally purchased in 1999 for $146,500. It sold less than a week ago for $126,000.

Considering how high the market got after these homes were originally purchased by their last owners, it's amazing how far they've fallen. Of course, both were foreclosures, which certainly hurt their value, but still, it's not good.

Here's to hoping my neighbor who closed on her home today got a better price for her place...

Friday, March 05, 2010

The complication of state-licensed marriage

The last 10 years have been rife with debate over whether or not marriage licenses should be open to same-sex couples. I've seen a few stories recently that I believe are relevant to the issue.

The first was an article from MinnPost about a straight Austrian couple who wants a same-sex marriage. Austrian same-sex unions carry over 72 differences from straight unions in Austria, and this couple sees advantages in the legal same-sex union over the legal straight union.

The second story was about Obama's proposed health care bill. The proposal to pay for this bill includes raising "Medicare payroll taxes on individuals making more than $200,000 and married couples over $250,000." If the disadvantage to being legally married doesn't make sense to you here, it's probably not worth me trying to explain it.

The third story isn't a news story but was something relayed to me recently. I was told of a pastor who will perform Christian marriages but won't sign the legal, civil marriage certificate because he doesn't believe the state should be responsible for authorizing something that is religious in his mind.

I'll let the stories above speak for themselves without my detailed review of each one. Suffice it to say, the first exposes flaws in multiple types of unions, the second shows just one disincentive to civil marriage, and the third simply raises the question of whether or not the state should even be involved in sanctioning marriage.

What should the state be sanctioning and what shouldn't it? Should it be creating a civil union to sanction what is ultimately a religious union?

Regardless of the answer to that question, there are enough benefits to civil marriage that have been built into our society and government that it's clear it will never go away. There's a reason military personnel often marry just before going overseas rather than when they would otherwise have gotten married. Whether it's death benefits, job benefits, hospital visitation rights, end of life decisions, etc., marriage provides a legal verification of a personal bond that is so close, one person is able to make legal decisions for the other when necessary.

I think I've been wrong on this issue in the past. I see absolutely no reason these legal rights shouldn't be available to same-sex couples. I couldn't care less if you call it marriage or a civil union, it's civil either way. I am convinced that whatever it's called for same-sex couples it should also be called for straight couples. Calling it something else and attributing different rights to it means it's legally not the same thing. It doesn't have to be the same thing religiously, but it should be the same thing legally.

I don't believe the Bible condones same-sex unions. I also don't believe the Bible condones sex outside of marriage, drunkenness, addiction to [insert addiction here], etc., yet these things are legally permitted and they should be.

I'm increasingly convinced of a more libertarian view of how our government should operate and this is just part of that. The hours and money spent fighting for constitutional amendments banning same-sex unions have been astronomical. California's Proposition 8 saw $83.2 million spent to sway voters both ways. Of all of the campaigns across the United States on 11-5-08, Prop 8 was only surpassed by the presidential campaign in the amount of money spent. Does anyone else think that's absolutely outrageous?!?

It's time to change our laws and watch life go on.