Mug of War
It was early in the morning and since Mommy had just left for work, it was time for Daddy to take the stage for my daily variety show. Although I’ve been known to perform intimate acoustic Disney-song concerts, reproduce Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” on the Magna Doodle, and even regularly scare the robotic tigers my son has imagined into existence back into “other houses, but not this house,” I was feeling especially wiped out on this particular morning. The Twins had just gotten over a nasty cold, and had so generously shared it with me, so as I sleepily hacked up a lung, I decided I needed a power-up and fired up our Keurig (arguably the best purchase we have made as new parents). And yes, I realize that coffee is not a fantastic idea when one has a cold, as it discourages hydration, but when one is accustomed to caffeine every morning, one is inclined to not pile the withdrawal headache on top of fiery sinuses and a gravelly throat. So there.
“Daddy?” my daughter half-whined. “You come play in my room?”
This is a new fun game I play with my daughter. She recently has become enamored with the novelty of playing with all of her toys with Daddy in her room. So much so, in fact, that every moment of every day I am home with them, my presence is requested in her room.
This, of course, would be fine if I didn’t have another child who expects an equal amount of Daddy’s attention. But I do, and there are times when I’m in the middle of building a perfectly-scaled replica of Mount Rushmore with Duplos with my son, or helping him line up his beloved “sea treatures” on the floor by species, and can’t just drop everything to “go play in her room.”
And so I tell her “No,” invariably triggering a hissy fit which lasts way longer than it needs to. In fact, just the other day, I was rocking The Beatles’ Help! on vinyl at my son’s request (yeah, he’s pretty awesome), and in the middle of the opening title track, my little girl invited me to play in her room. After I explained that Daddy and Brother were busy doing Awesome Things, she staged a very vocal protest spanning almost all of Side A. On a side-note, my resilient son didn’t let the screaming infringe upon his Beatlemania, and he just kept literally dancing circles around his sister as she kicked and punched the floor.
Keep Your Eye on the Beh
In addition to my groundbreaking research on closet zombies and whatever sustainability is, my Ph. D. program has also provided the opportunity to learn computer programming–something I’ve wanted to do for years but never had the time or resources.
This has had to happen fairly quickly, as on the first day of the semester, one of my professors had my classmates and me each introduce ourselves along with our programming experience, since it would be a foundational element of the class. Having been awake since 3:15 am with my sick son, I’d just chugged two Venti coffees in order to be a functional human being, so as you can probably imagine I was already feeling incredibly chipper and eager to learn.
I grimaced as I listened to my colleagues’ alien technobabble:
“Most of my experience is in Java Frappuccino Monty Python Venom Script with Pirate Eyepatch Death Star Optimization Support.”
“I’ve dabbled in C-Minus-Plus-Ampersand Continuum Transfunctioners, but I’m most comfortable with Skynet Flux Capacitors.”
“I created the Allspark.”
The Quest for Redemption
By the Friday of every week I am completely exhausted. After wrangling the Twins, beating the snot out of my house-husbanding chores, and writing this fine publication (which many have recently remarked that they cannot believe I have time for), I am spent. So spent that my during-the-rest-of-the-week 2:00 pm crash usually hits at 11:30 am, while lying on the floor with my progeny in the middle of Tummy/Rolling All Over the Place Time, as I nod off mid-pseudo-engaging-baby-critical-thinking-question-about-the-toys-they-are-marvelling-at. (“What color is that ball? What shape is that ba–Zzzzzz…Ow! Did you just punch me in the nose? … What color is my nose?”)
With that in mind, I usually set few, very small goals for Fridays.
Take last Friday for example. It was the end of my busiest week in a while. In addition to my regular duties (huh-huh, I said duties), I’ve been doing some contracted tech work as well as boxing belongings and seeking out new residences for the Pseudonymous family since we have recently decided to move.
And so, as I resuscitated myself with my super-charged Friday morning coffee, I decided to aim low. Aside from the givens (twin care, dishwashing, ninjutsu training), my primary objective was to browse the iTunes store for music and determine what I would purchase with the $15 gift card my wife got me over a month ago for Father’s Day. (Would you believe I haven’t had time?) I’ve had it sitting out on the counter as a reminder ever since receiving it from my wonderful wife, and have caught taunting glimpses of it while making bottles, folding laundry, and soothing meltdowns.
With months of trophy husbanding experience under my belt, I believed this iTunes iTask to finally be within my iGrasp. Even if the kids were particularly grumpy, I could line up my sonic candidates like reality show contestants waiting for the red rose of approval, hit play, and discriminatingly consume. In fact, the Twinfants would most certainly enjoy the ever-changing sensory stimulation generated by the constant toggling of song clips.
No problem, right?
Well, of course not. Why would I write about that? It failed miserably.
The primary reason the plan disintegrated like a drool-drenched Graduates Puff was that we had absolutely no Nap Overlap. Those of you who are Loyal Readers know this means my children were never asleep at the same time. In fact, for the entire day, they were on completely opposite sleep schedules. As soon as I delivered one to Sleepy Town, the other was just waking up. All. Freaking. Day.
Now, I will admit this situation has its advantages, for instance facilitating quality one-on-one time with each of the twins individually, which is something all the books about twins that I don’t have time to read seem to say is important. On the other tiny hand, such a rhythm does not facilitate Daddy getting a freaking second to himself. Not to go to the bathroom, not to eat (unless I combine them), not even to accomplish tedious tasks like defunkifying dishes, laundering laundry, and listening to smooth on-hold jazz while waiting to haggle with customer service representatives.
Plus, at almost seven months old, the Twinfants are teething and especially irritable. As a matter of fact, amidst Frankenstein-monster moans akin to dueling banjos, transparent vampire-fang drool trickles flowing from each mouth corner, angry head-butts to Daddy’s sternum, and the frantic gnawing of foam books, plush pandas, and human fingers, we have sprouted the First Two Teeth of Pseudonymous: The Next Generation, with our son’s inaugural chomper emerging on Thursday evening and our daughter’s fashionably late pearly white fanfaring into view Saturday morning.
Guess which day was right in the middle? That’s right. Friday, the day iFailed.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. Although both kids had their share of I-need-you-to-hold-me-right-now-Daddy-or-I-will-shatter-every-window-with-my-squeals moments, there were also a few peppered throughout the day when they seemed content, or, as Snoop Dogg wouldn’t say: “Rollin’ down the floor, sucking teething rings, sippin’ on baby formula, laid back, with their minds on their (stuffed) monkeys and their monkeys on their minds.”
Then, I got greedy.
On at least three occasions, I thought, Okay, they seem pretty chill. I could maybe squeeze in a song sample or twenty. I even lowered my laptop’s volume and strategically placed it in accessible but out-of-baby-sight locations, as I have learned they do NOT like to compete with Skynet for my attention. On my final Hail Mary attempt, I even tried earbuds. However, every listening session ended abruptly, about five seconds into the first clip, as they noticed I was not staring at them, hanging on their every gesture, the only proper response for which, of course, is a tantrum. This did not make for an optimal music previewing atmosphere.
I’ll admit I missed an opportunity around 2 pm, just after bottle-guzzling. They were happily cooing at their playthings on the floor, and I home-run trotted to my computer. This is it! I thought. It’s all happening! I chose an album (The Features’ Wilderness) clicked “play all samples,” and rejoined the munchkins on the floor. As they chattered and smiled at me occasionally, I laid on my back and stared at the ceiling fan, listening to my prospective new jams. Which made me think of seeing the band live when they came to Phoenix a few years ago. It was just my wife and me then. Simpler times. Not “better” times by any means, but definitely simpler. And I remembered the electrifying onstage energy the band had, and the badass hollow-bodied guitar their frontman rocked. Which made me think about how Pseudonymous hasn’t “Gone Electric” in a while. I’ve been folking out with the Twins acoustically, but haven’t “plugged in” for months. I should do that. Do I need new strings?
Before I knew it, the song previews had ended 15 minutes ago and I had still only paid attention to the first five seconds of the first song.
Now, before you decide that this poor, frustrated soul is clearly on his last nerve and take it upon yourself to send in your magical parenting guru suggestions about what I should have done in order to achieve my iGoal even though you: 1) weren’t here, 2) weren’t as tired as I was, and 3) have never met my children and thus don’t know what works (and what doesn’t) with them, I want to emphasize that in the scheme of things, I don’t care about the stupid iTunes card. (I also already tried your suggestion anyway since eating Wheaties daily makes me a Champion by definition.)
The more I pushed to “git-r-done,” the more I realized that purchasing music was just not in the cards for me that day. (Haha, get it?) Even more importantly, every day I could focus on achieving little tasks like buying music, getting every last dish washed, or writing yet another genius blog post–and in doing so, continually exasperate myself because the Twins usually need me more than I anticipate. Or, instead, I could remind myself what a privilege staying home to raise them is. Even though I spend more time with them than anyone else, it still feels like they’re growing up so quickly. I know although my wife enjoys her job, it doesn’t hold a candle to seeing them all day on weekends, and remember when I first returned to work from paternity leave, I felt like I was missing out all day.
Every moment I have with them is an opportunity for me to savor the awe-inspiring experience that is parenthood and, in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
There will be plenty of time for me to buy my stupid music in the future, and yes, over the weekend, I was finally able to redeem the gift card one night once the kids went to sleep. As it turned out, it was an even better Fathers’ Day present than it first appeared to be.
It reminded me how lucky I am to be a Dad.
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If not, maybe you just need a day off. It worked for Cameron.
Open Roads and Diaper Loads – Our First Road Trip
I am thrilled, O Loyal Reader, to announce that the following Twincident was actually not written by me, but instead an Über-Special Guest Author. You’ve heard her thoughts on having more children, hydration and colored clutter. You’ve seen her catch vomit with her mouth, stick her chin in poo, and even put up with her husband’s suggestive innuendos while deathly ill. Now, for the first time, the floor is hers. Please welcome my wife, Bernie Pseudonymous!
(Yes, that’s right, her name is Bernie. Please withhold your Weekend at Bernie’s jokes. You may think you’re being original, but we’ve heard them all and none of them are funny. Not even yours.)
This story starts like most other stories in my life lately. “My husband and I were feeling a little adventurous, so…” we decided that a weekend getaway to San Diego (5 hours by car) was totally doable and should be in our immediate future. The main motivation behind this quest was a five-generation picture that I wanted to get with our five-and-a-half-month-old twins and their great-great grandmother who was able to come down to San Diego with my grandmother so we could capture this rare twincident (if you will) on film. Plus, getting out of the 100-plus Arizona heat sounded very appealing and I wanted to prove to myself that it COULD be done. We knew that the twins could handle this adventure if we planned it right.
So we started preparing about three weeks prior to the Fourth of July weekend, talking to friends and scouring these internets for twinfant travel tips. The plan was to leave after we fed the twins dinner and a bottle hoping the baby food coma would keep the kids asleep the whole way. To me this seemed like a solid plan but the actual car ride, not so solid.
Pretty much every night our daughter falls asleep after dinner and stays asleep for the night. She can’t take a nap worth a damn, but at night she recoups. Our son is a little different. He goes down for naps relatively easy all day but also wakes up relatively easy and usually to the sound of our dog alerting us a car has gone by or some other annoying sound like thunder. So this applies to our car adventure because he was unable to fall asleep right away and the loud swooshing of wind flying by the car kept him awake. And unhappy. He cried for about 45 minutes, but then fell asleep until we reached a halfway mark where I could change him as the sky finally darkened, allowing his brain to recognize that sleep was in fact a good idea. (He did this on the way home, too but that time our daughter woke up, so Mom ninja-ed her way into the back seat and performed Mommy Sleep Magic on them both. Not ideal, but not terrible either.)
We arrived in San Diego at 10:30 pm at which point I had to wait 20 minutes for my sleeping mother (who goes by “Nani” instead of “Grandma”) to come down to the lobby to tell us where our room was. As an added bonus, my 14-year-old brother had fallen asleep in our room (why he was in there in the first place…?) and Nani needed to get an extra key from the front desk to open it. All this commotion woke the bambinos up and UP they were for the next two hours. Once everyone settled we all slept until 5 am, but thankfully we handed the kids off to Nani at 6:30 after they ate and Mom and Dad got to sleep until 9. It was our first time sleeping that late in months, and It. Was. Awesome.
Most of our trip was spent swapping babies between my husband, Nani, my sister, brother and me so naps could be achieved and meals could be eaten. It was not a bad system. Later that afternoon I was so excited to take my kids on a non-100-plus-degree walk that I just threw them in the stroller and we left not knowing we’d be taking a three-mile walk and not putting sunscreen on. Needless to say, the adults got burnt but the kids were unscathed and loved the walk. We performed some voodoo on the kids upon our return and got everyone to take a nap, refreshing us all.
After our nap we decided we needed to take the five-generation photos, as postponement might result in whiny twin/great-great-grandma syndrome. I can happily report that said photos turned out perfectly and I am so thrilled to be able to share these with my kids. After the pictures we ate dinner on the patio and had drinks with the whole family, great and great-great grandma included. Some fond memories were created. The kids’ great-great grandma is sharp. She was telling jokes and totally chatting us up. Definitely worth the 45 minutes of crying…both ways.
The next day came too quickly and we were off that night to return home. This was a trial vacation but I know the kids can handle longer and I can’t wait for the next time. In the end, the trip was quite a success.
Here are a few things Mom learned along the way:
- Both my parents and my husband’s parents gave us crap for the three suitcases, two travel co-pods, stroller, two diaper bags, backpack, fleet of bottles, high chairs covers and portable bath tub that we packed BUT there was only one item we didn’t use—a portable jumper—and that’s only because the door frame wouldn’t allow it.
- In a choice between a car with space and a car that is super quiet, the quiet one wins. My poor son scared himself too many times in the loud sport utility vehicle we swapped with Nani to take to San Diego, but luckily we swapped cars back and drove our own, much quieter four-door sedan home.
- Rest areas, hotels, and some fast food joints do not have diaper-changing stations in their bathrooms. They will pay someday. I don’t know how, but they will pay.
- Our car stereo has a fade option allowing us to turn down the speakers next to the kids. Had no idea. My husband thought I was crazy for not knowing this information. Guess I’ve never had to fade the sound to the front so my kids won’t wake up before.
- The second you get in the car for a long ride, your twins will poop. Mine did both ways.
- The white noise Sound Machines (that my husband believes are from Miami) are lifesavers when staying in a hotel. The constant slamming of doors is less annoying if not projected through hallways full of paper-thin walls.
- A family trip with five-month-old twins and an 88-year-old great-great grandma is actually a good idea since they are on the same nap and nighttime schedule.
- Food at a hotel is WAY too expensive, but it’s the closest spot to get some food in your belly that doesn’t require the Twin Car Shuffle, so it will do.
- Going on vacation with my husband, my mom, my grandma, my sister and brother was genius. There was always someone to help with the kids. I believe all vacations with my kids should require other family members.
- Caffeine is such a great friend. It never lets you down when you need it most. Even if you have to dump 10 packs of sugar in it to be drinkable.
- Stroller naps are just fine. So are naps anywhere else.
- My daughter is a great traveler. My son’s not.
- Mommy can and did squeeze her tush between the car seats in the backseat of our four-door sedan. When two kids are screaming like wild banshees, it can be done.
- Twins are a novelty in California as well as Arizona, as are idiots who believe they are entitled to touching our twins even though they are complete strangers.
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If not, I’ll turn this car right around and go back home. Is that what you want?