I awoke suddenly to sheets of rain tap-dancing on the roof, werewolf-howl wind gusts, and the white-noise hiss of our baby monitor, my wife’s intent yet exhausted face lit by the screen.
“Hey,” she whispered.
“What up,” I yawned.
“He’s awake.” She turned the monitor to display my son in his crib, tossing restlessly. I glanced at the clock. 3:20 am.
“Still out,” she replied, just as the monitor toggled to our daughter, fast asleep. My wife dubiously shook her head. “How are you just now waking up? How can you sleep through this?”
A bright flash lit the room momentarily, followed by thunderclap that literally rattled the house.
She shot me a the-deafening-storm-you’ve-been-sleeping-through-you-lucky-bastard kind of look. My wife is a light sleeper, so she wakes up often at night and sometimes gets jealous of my hibernation-grade slumber intensity, particularly during nights like this.
“Oh,” I answered. “Talent?”
We are in the midst of what Arizonans call “Monsoon Season,” a time during which we are graced not only with three-digit heat, but also higher-than-usual humidity and a wave of tropical thunderstorms, including the most massive dust storm Phoenix has seen in years–or as I learned the day after the storm, the proper term is haboob. (Yes, really. How exciting is that?!) So, with that in mind, check out these pictures of this enormous, mind-blowing, spectacular haboob, from TWO angles!
While it was incredibly cool to experience (at one point we couldn’t see anything further than five feet out the windows as the tannish fog enveloped the house), the timing was not ideal. The storm hit just as we were putting the Twins down for bed, so despite the soothing simulated-heartbeat jams of their Sound Machines (which I believe are from Miami), the rattling windows, moaning gusts, and our yapping watchdog kept them awake, which allowed them the opportunity to complement the clamor outside with alternating cries akin to dueling guitar solos.
I remembered the haboob experience as the sky paparazzi flashed another photo.
My first thought was: Huh-huh. Huh-huh. Haboob. My second was: Huh-huh. Huh-huh. But my third was: Get ready to hold crying progeny for an hour.
Not that I was hoping for it, but I definitely had to accept it as a possibility. But then, my selfish heart melted when I actually thought of the Twinfants, alone in their beds, waking with a start, never having heard or experienced such a loud, sensory-overloading thing. Recalling my own childhood and how terrified I’d get of lightning storms, I became totally okay with soothing them and letting them know everything would be okay.
My son flipped from his side to his back, his eyes wide open, looking up at the camera. I swear he already knows what it is and what it does because all the time I catch him half-smirking directly at it like Dunder-Mifflin’s Jim Halpert.
After a few minutes of silently willing him back to sleep, my wife and I gently high-fived as he found his thumb and sucked it all the way back to Sleepy Town.
“Okay,” I murmured, leaning over to kiss my wife. “Good ni–”
FLASH! (Yes, that is an onomatopoeia that doesn’t actually make a sound.) BANG!
“She’s waking up.”
“No she isn’t.”
Sure enough, there my daughter was, exhaling loudly, whipping what little hair she has back and forth. Now, she worried me even more. She’s a little more high-strung and observant than my son. Her eyes like dinner plates, she has a thirst for life in general and passionately takes in everything she encounters. This curiosity will serve her well, but it also causes her to get easily overwhelmed by situations that overload her senses. Such as bright flashes of light and loud booms.
The back-and-forth hair-whipping slowed to an alert halt at another flash and bang. Her eyes widened.
Oh no. Here it comes.
And then something incredible happened.
She just lost her mind laughing.
And then, in utter shock, so did we.
Each crash intensified her hysterics to a higher, more jubilant octave, rolling mirthfully back and forth as the storm raged on, while my wife and I tried to stifle belly laughs so the three of us wouldn’t wake my son.
Eventually, she tired herself out, found a tasty finger, and collapsed.
My wife and I, on the other hand, were now fully awake from laughing until we cried.
In fact, we listened to the sky explode for another hour, returning fire with overdramatic sighs and obscenities.
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If not, maybe you just need to think of the word “haboob.” Huh-huh. Haboob.
The moment I get both twins down for a nap is one of victory, invariably punctuated by a touchdown dance I’ve developed during my six-week career as starting Cry Receiver. It begins with the Running Man at a safe distance from 2nd (kid) Down, erupting into a Super Mario Brothers Fist-Raised Leap as I cross into the End Zone/Kitchen–during which I bump the ceiling, triggering a shower of Gilded Pacifiers–followed by the spike of a full baby bottle on the floor (empty ones don’t thud or bounce quite as badassly). I Raise the Roof with legs of Jell-O while willing myself not to White-Man’s-Overbite, and then, as I go into a little soft-shoe routine, die-hard face-painted fans, animal mascots, and cheerleaders emerge from drawers, cabinets, and Crock Pots, all remarkably donning the color of whatever spit-up-stained t-shirt I happen to be wearing. I sign the bottle with a Sharpie, fling it into the masses–who will argue for the ensuing two hours about who had it first–and launch myself into the Dawg Pound, crowd-surfing my way through high-fives.
Yeah, it’s a work in progress.
The “Holy Crap, a Nap Overlap!” Shuffle (working title) may seem a tad extravagant, but that’s because rarely does this occasion occur. Unlike many modern technologies, you cannot set twinfants to automatically synchronize. People often assume twins are uncannily in-tune. I definitely see yin and yang dynamics emerging, but my experience has shown that–as fraternal, boy/girl twins–they truly are two unique people, and with that comes unique sleep patterns. (I’ve heard identical twins tend more towards similar sleep habits but won’t at all claim to be an expert on that.)
It goes like this. My son, the Reigning Naptime Champion, usually conks right out, often even collapsing in his jumper or drifting off mid-teething-ring gnaw. My daughter, on the other hand, will show signs of tiredness, but will resist the falling asleep part at all costs. So after soothing, rocking, defiant de-socking, carrying, pacing, wide-awake goofy-facing, singing, swinging, pacifier flinging, and even laying her down to self-sooth until she’s so loud she’s about to wake her brother resulting in an fiery inferno of dual banshee shrieks, by the time I finally get her to sleep, I’ll often hear him waking from a 45-minute nap before I can even Mario Jump.
However, against these insurmountable odds, I usually manage to get them down at the same time once a day. This magical phenomenon, Daddy’s Time, allows me to do. Whatever. I. Want. It feels strangely similar to my parents letting me stay home alone while they ran errands, leaving my ecstatic mind reeling with unfathomable possibilities. Should I go through drawers? Blow out the stereo speakers? Snoop for Christmas presents?
So, once the crowd returns to their hiding places in appliances and cabinets, I am left alone with my thoughts, the most common of which are the following, in this order.
I first must harness the butterflies and giggling pink unicorns in my head and decide what I will do, because the clock is already ticking. A quick survey of the towering pile of dirty baby bottles, nipples and pacifiers in the sink, the full laundry hamper, and the labyrinth of play gyms on the floor reminds me that I simply must work on my next blog post because the idea is genius and will surely be the one to gain the attention of a publisher who will commission Twinfamy: The Book which will be optioned for Twinfamy: The Movie or possibly The HBO Series, which will in turn surely win a record-breaking amount of awards and acclaim, and I will be so wealthy that I can pay someone else to do the damn dishes, laundry, and tidying.
2. Oh, no! Don’t wake up yet!
Too often, I’ve begun The Shuffle prematurely. I’ll hear a youthful groan and an absolute hush falls across the stadium as we all spin towards the JumboTron to watch the baby monitor video feed. You could hear a grain of rice cereal drop as we await the child’s decision, willing him or her to drift back off.
Other times, I’ll be in the middle of something crucial, such as finally finishing the episode of Futurama I’ve been trying to watch during Daddy’s Time all week (since my wife dislikes cartoons, even stellar grown-up ones), or again, penning that all-important next post, but as I finally hog-tie a muse and the ideas come oinking out, I’ll hear a rustling. Oh, no, please God, just give me five more minutes…Or if you’re having a good day, twenty works for me, too…
It’s also at about this point in the day when my dog realizes she has the floor. “Hey! Wait a minute! Those little upstaging bastards are asleep! It’s my turn!” She’ll make a dog-beeline for the closet and return on a unicycle, juggling rawhide bones, and wearing a scrolling LED belt buckle that reads: “Come on, Dad! Let’s play fetch, and then you can rub my tummy, and then…” And so, once I see her enormous black eyes glimmer expectantly, I have about three seconds to stop her from whining, barking, or howling Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and waking the kids. Having given my poor, outshone-by-Twinfants canine some attention, I will then return to chores and/or Awesome Things. She’s usually fine with this until any sound whatsoever breaks the silence, prompting her to alert me via bark messaging that the air conditioning just clicked on, or the garbage truck has arrived, or that I have just closed the microwave, which brings me to…
4. How badly do I want to close this microwave?
Whether I’m finally nuking my first meal of the day or washing and steaming the aforementioned baby apparatus in our microwave sterilizer (neither of which I usually get around to until Nap Overlap), the microwave is a staple of Daddy’s Time. The problem, of course, it that it is impossible to close a microwave quietly. Don’t believe me? Go ahead, try. I’ll wait.
See? Told you. (My apologies if you’ve woken up napping children during Your Time.)
Even when I try to soften the blow with my fingertip as a silencer, I’m left with the same deafening bang and a sore finger. If this predicament were a movie trailer, it would go something like this:
In a world…
where silence MUST prevail…
on every slam.
Can YOU take the heat?
In theaters this Summer.
5. Did I brush my teeth today?
Now, before you get all grossed out, let me explain. I take morning coffee seriously, and carefully select blends I find to be delicious. However, the Tooth-Brushing/Coffee-Drinking Paradox dictates that brushing when I wake up causes the paste taste to linger and infiltrate my morning mug. I endured Minty Baking Soda Mochas for years via travel mug on my way to work, but can savor coffee with a clean palate now that I stay home.
The only caveat is the all-consuming nature of my “dayjob” sometimes causes me to forget to brush once the coffee’s done. All hail Daddy’s Time.
6. What did my wife tell me not to forget to do?
I knew it was something, and it must have been important, otherwise she wouldn’t have made a point to tell me. I think it had a “W” in it. I could ask her, but then she’ll know I forgot. Dammit.
Additonal Twinformation for New Parents
A 500-Disc DVD Special Edition Bonus Feature
My wife and I consider the microwave sterilizer I mentioned in Thought Number Four one of our best new-parent purchases. After a quick scrub and rinse in the sink, we throw them in this badboy, heat for 2 minutes, and play a Ring Toss/Horseshoes-style game to get them on the drying rack. I highly recommend this fine piece of equipment, especially over those disposable bags that burn the hell out of you every damn time and aren’t “effective” after X amount of uses.
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If not, that’s fine. Just please don’t wake up my kids.
Having ensured the vessel to be seaworthy for months, today we officially ventured into the uncharted waters of stay-at-home-dad-ness, or, if you will, The Voyage of the Water Treader. The School Year That Refused To End finally gave in after a heated thumb-wrestling match, and after the long Memorial Day Weekend, the Winds of Change solemnly whispered that today would be my first day reporting for duty as the new Captwin, while Her Royal Momness, who is commissioning this expedition, returned to work full-time. Just before setting sail, we gathered on the poop deck to bid her adieu, standing at attention in a line for her inspection. The affair was promptly interrupted by the necessity to swab said poop deck, for my son was commemorating the occasion with his own diaper-made fireworks.
Finally, it was time to say our goodbyes. “The hour has arrived,” I murmured to my two First Mates, their faces gleefully jubilant. Oh, to be so young and oblivious again, I thought. Have they any idea what’s to come? But let’s face it, neither do I.
Her Momness surveyed the craft one last time, glanced at the amber horizon, and drew in a deep breath. I shushed the crew. “Quiet, lads! Her Majesty wishes to speak!” I just knew she was preparing to impart a gilded nugget of wisdom, gained from four turbulent months at sea with this very crew.
She raised an eyebrow. “Lads?”
“Oh, was that out loud?”
“Stop being weird.”
“Sorry. What were you gonna say?”
“I turned on the Crock-Pot, so dinner should be ready by the time I get back.”
I grinned, now detecting the faint essence of spice in the salty sea air, which could only mean one thing—when we returned to port that evening, we would not have to settle for hardtack, but would instead feast on the glory that is Pulled Pork Night.
Just minutes ago, in the privacy of the Captwin’s Quarters, I had briefed my crew—both Twinfants and our canine defender/mascot—to look as mind-numbingly cute as possible, and as our Matriarch bade us each a farewell kiss (I think I got a little tongue…Yes, I’m quite certain), the children did me proud, cooing and smiling from ear to ear. Unfortunately, our canine kind of dropped the proverbial ball, promptly falling asleep under the ship’s wheel soon after inspection.
Her Momjesty stepped off port-side onto the pier, but lingered, taking in a final gaze. I waved dorkily. “We’ll be fine,” I assured her.
Putting her best foot forward, my wife bravely and suddenly declared, “I don’t wanna go!”
Eventually, after promising to document every millisecond of our journey in HD for her review and insisting we would be ready for a Skype or FaceTime call at the drop of a teething ring, we were off.
Rough waters rocked the craft in the early morning, triggering even rougher waters to emanate from my son’s mouth, necessitating a record three wardrobe changes on the day, but he wore it well, mirthfully logging hours on ship apparatus including the Jumping Station and a Wellness Inner Tube (known more commonly to lubbers as an Exersaucer). A chipper lad, that one.
Sometime around noon, one of my crew actually made some waves of her own. I did not expect this so early in our journey, but my spirited female First Mate seemed to be flirting with mutinous thoughts. She would not heed the Crew Naptime Schedule (CNS) as posted. (I never verbalized this, but suspected her loyalty was only to Her Momness, and not to this cheap imitation with no milk-bearing knockers.) Our debate over the issue was heated and even escalated to such a commotion on the main deck that her shipmate was awoken several times in his own quarters—the racket slicing like a cutlass through even the white noise of a stand-up fan and our (Miami?) Sound Machine. It seems that as of late, during daytime hours, she prefers to be vigilant for all that life has to offer rather than whiling daylight away unconsciously, something she and I actually have in common. Having realized this, we ultimately resolved the matter when she agreed to adhere to the CNS from our ship’s mechanical, swinging Crow’s Nest. That way, she would be able to keep watch at her leisure while the gentle rocking motion of the waves and the soothing calls of the plush electronic seagulls flying overhead assisted her into slumber.
As trying as the day was, I did manage to steer the ship clear of the alluring siren song of social networking, a feat of which I am particularly prideful.
Some hours later, emotions ran high as the entire crew was faced with braving our greatest challenge yet—the drab, five-note-only, on-hold music of the customer service line for our broken baby monitor, the malfunction of which has absolutely nothing to do with the sexual advances on my wife it has transmitted in weeks prior.
Having collected the day’s findings, we retired back to port with mouths agape and watering for the tender, tangy goodness that is pulled pork (or possibly from teething—hard to say). Upon arrival, we were reunited with Her Momness, who promptly asked me if I was still man enough to be Captwin.
I answered with a resounding “Aye!” and at that, a disguised band of nomadic minstrels flash-mobbed into stirring rendition of Men Without Hats’ “The Safety Dance” as the Festival of Pulled Pork Night began.
Which brings me to where I am now, recounting the day’s events before retiring to the Captwin’s Quarters, but tomorrow the voyage continues. All things considered, it was a successful first outing. We know not what lies before us in these waters, but in attempting to speculate what is to come, one must concede that only time will tell.
“Okay, so it’s all set up. If you keep it plugged in, you can just leave it on. You don’t even need to touch it!” I winked in full infomercial swagger. As my school year winds down, my mother is wrangling the kids on days my wife and I are both working, so I was giving her a crash course on not touching the baby monitor so she would actually be able to use it all day.
“Just the way I like it,” she snickered. My mother’s technological savvy is just a cut above my four-month-old children’s, so she appreciates when I minimize her button-pushing obligations.
My daughter furrowed her brow and “Guh guh guh-ed” at Grandma through the nipple in her mouth, which translates to, “You shut your mouth while you’re feeding me.” She has a strict policy when eating: “No talking and no eye contact—I’m focusing.”
I have attempted to implement this same policy in a reciprocal manner. Whenever I’m seizing a precious free moment to shovel my entire meal stomachward in one gulp and she “interrupts” me, I’ll point an accusatory finger and throw that “Guh guh guh” right back in her face, but it’s an exercise in futility akin to expecting quality from a Kate Hudson movie. I’ve even tried to sit her down and explain to her that she’s holding me to a double standard, but then she’ll do the thing where she smiles so widely and intensely that her tongue trembles, and her damp, elated eyes literally sparkle. So, as the cuteness melts my face off, the only thing I can say to that is, “I’ll get you next time, Gadget! Next time!”
Making sure my son was secure in his jumper, I took a step towards my bedroom, still dazed from his 4 a.m. wake-up call. (“Hey, Dad! Watch this! See this thing on my foot? If I pull it, it comes off! You gotta try this! Oh…were you asleep?”) I then realized I should see if my mom needed anything before I passed the munchkin baton, especially because I now realize she endured this madness for me when I was one of them.
“Are you good? I was gonna shower.”
The proud grandma cradled my daughter, whose unrelenting cuteness had begun to melt her face off as well. “I’m more than good.”
“How are you feeling?” I asked my wife, who was getting ready for work. She hasn’t been feeling so hot this week, due to a debilitating cold. It’s the first time either of us has fallen ill since the Twins’ Earthen premiere, and it’s been daunting running on fewer cylinders than usual with the added two miniature, dependent cylinders.
“Alright, I guess,” she replied. “I don’t feel any worse than yesterday but I don’t feel any better either.”
It is a national day of mourning when she’s sick. I’ve always felt it’s better me than her. As a victim of terrible allergies for my entire life, I was a sickly child, always carrying tissues in one pocket and cough drops in the other, while my bastard friends always had room for cool things, like Swiss Army Knives and G.I. Joes. Don’t get me wrong—I despise being sick as much as anyone—I’ve just gotten used to it. My wife, not so much.
Plus, because she is the organized one—I like to think of myself as the “idea” guy—when she is sick, bills are neglected, appointments are forgotten, and basically any planning ahead whatsoever does not happen because I find thrilling new ways to drop the ball when I sub in. On the other hand, if I’m sick, the most devastating tragedy is usually that our iPods are not perfectly synced with our iTunes libraries.
But I am an excellent caregiver. As a soon-to-be-former middle school teacher, filthy tweens have blessed me with nearly every illness there is to have over the years, aside from the ones you need a vagina for. This—paired with the fact that my mother is a pharmacist—has yielded a fine assortment of remedies for every occasion. One that I swear by is hot tea, especially when you unload about a half-bottle of honey into it. (According to the leading e-mail forwards, honey has transformative healing powers and is said to be the best remedy for sore throats, unrelenting coughs, and even the occasional Saturday Night Fever.)
I’ve made tea for my wife every night this week. This is because I am the world’s greatest husband.
So on that fateful morning, upon hearing that my wife was still not feeling well, I inquired, “Do you have teabags at work?”
“Yeah,” she sighed, frustrated. She had that defeated look in her eyes that you see in uncoordinated people trying to play Guitar Hero. Something needed to be done to lift her spirits. Something epic. And as I was undressing to get in the shower, I decided to be hilarious.
“Would it make you feel better if I teabagged you right now?” For those who are unfamiliar with the act of teabagging, go ahead and Google it, and I’m sure you’ll find your answer. It involves likening a certain region of the male anatomy to a “teabag” while “steeping” it in a certain cavity of another consenting adult—in my case, a smokin’ hot female.
She finished blowing her nose and just stared at me. “Are you kidding?”
Well, of course I was kidding. As you remember, I was being hilarious. But that’s not to say I would have been upset if she had been up for it, either.
“You’re smiling on the inside,” I quipped. Then I got one on the outside. Boo-yah. My mission accomplished, I jumped in the shower.
Stop picturing me naked.
Just a few minutes later, my wife came creeping back in. As she peeked into the shower, I wondered if my beverage-innuendo-driven proposal had been accepted. Then I noticed an odd look on her face.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Um… Your mom…” She was whispering. “You know the monitor over there?” She pointed at one of the cribs in our room.
“You forgot to turn it off. I think she heard…about the teabagging.”
“Oh sh*t! Really?”
“Wait, do you think she even knows what it means?”
“I don’t know!” She hissed. “Do you want me to ask her?”
“Of course not!”
Several days later, the topic has not been breached. We’re okay with that.