I looked up from the kitchen island to check on the Dynamic Duo. My son sat enthralled on the floor, accenting his finger-pointing at the television screen with “Oohs” and “Aahs,” while my daughter reclined on the couch, wrapped in a blanket and cradling her stuffed Piglet.
Lately they’ve become completely obsessed with ocean life: ocean puzzles, ocean books, cheap-ass toy fishing poles with magnetic fish to “catch,” and anything involving Finding Nemo or The Little Mermaid. On this particular morning they’d begged me to put on one of their new favorite DVDs–the “Shallow Seas” episode of the Planet Earth series, which is now known in our house simply as “The Fishies.”
While they were caught up in the sheer awesomeness that is “The Fishies,” I had seized the opportunity to crack open my laptop and attend to PhD shenanigans.
Two brand new sets of lunch bags and Thermoses (Thermi?) on the far counter caught my eye as I penned a particularly riveting email. We recently registered the Twins to start “school” in July and my wife–ever the planner–has ALREADY secured rad new Hello Kitty and Spider-Man lunchtime gear in anticipation. No, this isn’t the parent-child class I’ve previously mentioned. Our children will soon be attending a new “big-kid” all-day school program a few days a week–one they’ll be attending without Daddy waiting in the wings (which works out well because Daddy’s about to start on his dissertation).
We’re also mere days from launching PottyTrainingFest 2013, an event we know the Twins are ready for, as my daughter now literally approaches me with a clean diaper in hand, saying, “Daddy, I pee-peed.” (Why couldn’t THAT have caught on sooner?) Although their new school helps with potty training and even does diapers, the idea is for us to do the bulk of the work at the Pseudonymous World Headquarters and send them out into the field with a License to Potty.
“Are you done yet?” my wife groaned.
It was almost 11pm on a Saturday and I’d been working non-stop since breakfast. I could tell she was getting annoyed with me, but I was almost done with my final read-through.
This was Day 1 of The 3-Day Great Comprehensive Exam-A-Thon that would be my weekend. See, near the end of a Ph.D. program, they have you take an exam relevant to your field of study that’s reviewed by faculty in your department who basically decide if you’re competent enough to start the final stage of your program–the dreaded dissertation. Sometimes it involves a major project done over the course of a few weeks, and other times the student is essentially locked in a room for several consecutive days to cuss at bubble sheets and essay response booklets. In my case, I was handed about a 90-page packet (not an exaggeration) which provided directions and resources for writing four different papers–each of which was to be 6-8 pages long, due in four days.
Fortunately, these four days started on a Friday and I was allowed to complete the exam from the comfort of my own home. Unfortunately, I have twin two-year-olds in my own home, who, from the moment I enter to the moment they collapse in their beds, shout spirited requests of me. Here are some of their greatest hits:
“Daddy! Sit down dare. Read book-y.”
“More juicy! Pleaseokaythankyou! Apple juicy. Yesokay!”
(performed melodramatically by my son, hanging from one monkey-hand on the pantry doorknob, usually fifteen minutes after refusing to eat a single bite for dinner)
Since I barely had any work time on Friday, I was hitting it hard on Saturday, and decided that while I was still fresh, I’d hammer out two of the four papers, leaving the remaining two for Sunday and Monday. My wife was incredibly supportive, taking the kids out for the day while I pounded coffee to a soundtrack alternating between death metal and utter silence, my fingers furiously pecking at the keyboard.
It hadn’t been pretty, but I was now finally finally finally closing in on my goal for the day. Still planted in my seat at the kitchen table, I was looking over Paper 2 for any final edits when my wife, who was in our bedroom watching tv, suddenly became strangely persistent.
1. Woke up at 3am both mornings to rescue the Twins from drowning in a sea of their own mucus, caused by a recent onslaught of sickness.
2. Wiped tiny noses every thirty seconds, literally working through six boxes of tissues.
3. Wiped tiny squirts of child cold medicine defiantly spat at me off my face every four to six hours.
4. Listened to my washing machine suddenly start playing dubstep mid-cycle, culminating in a crash and sudsy water pooling below it.
5. Helped my wife scour the Pseudonymous Family’s vast collection of receipts and instruction booklets for the washing machine’s warranty information, continually chasing down toddlers who took off running with unsearched piles, wiping their noses on them.
6. Worked during too-short naptimes and into the wee hours of the night on a National Science Foundation research grant proposal that is due Wednesday and nowhere near done.
7. Got my son to repeat “My Precious” several times after he woke up from a nap with a raspy, swollen-sinus voice that made him sound exactly like Gollum. Which made it all worth it.
1. We still haven’t seen the second Hobbit movie. Peter Jackson has worked way too hard for it to go unseen.
2. I would not finish the Ph. D. I’ve been toiling over for years and would have no choice but to throw a hissy fit in the afterlife, surely banning me from all future John Lennon concerts–all because the Mayans couldn’t find anymore paper.
3. It would prevent us from seeing whether Science will fulfill the prophecies of hoverboards, self-drying jackets, and flying cars in 2015, as set forth by Back to the Future 2.
4. It would really be a bummer to not watch the Twins grow up–to never see Little League games and dance recitals, Christmas pageants and graduations, to never walk my daughter down the aisle, to never spoil my grandchildren rotten. Seriously, Mayans, what’s your frickin’ problem?
5. Despite the divisiveness the election caused, the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, and the atrocity in Connecticut, there is still just too much good in the world for us to throw in the towel just yet.
Don’t stop believin’, society!