ONE YEAR AGO…
I awoke to a pixie whisper in my ear. “Daddy!” my daughter hissed. “I fink da Easter Bunny came!”
“He did?” I yawned. “Well, I guess we’d better go wake up your brother and see what he left you. Do you want to?”
“Yes!” she hissed. “Yes, Daddy! I do!”
“Shh!” On the other side of the bed, my wife did a half-kick as she insisted, “Wait. I need five minutes. My stomach’s killing me.”
I plodded alongside my skipping daughter across our one-story rental house’s living room (past the two baskets expertly hidden by the Easter Bunny) and into my son’s room to begin the twenty-minute process of waking him from a sound sleep.
Aside from it being Easter Morning, 2014, this was pretty much business as usual–my daughter being the first one awake, my wife wanting “five more minutes,” and my son seconding his mother’s sentiments by demanding the remainder of the day to sleep, as he had already “telled me firty-seven times” to “stop talking to me. I don’t want to do nuffing!”
Sure, my world was pretty nuts, but things were also looking up. With the Twins in a school we’d grown quite fond of and my doctoral coursework in the bag, I had just taken a job I was fairly happy with–one requiring me to wear a tie and commute 45 minutes to downtown Phoenix. While I was not particularly a fan of the obscene amount of time I was spending ironing, attempting to color-coordinate shirt-tie-pants-socks-shoes combos, and coming to a complete stop on the freeway, I was very much a fan of the sudden influx of real, actual grown-ass man income I was earning after slumming it as a student worker for years.
This was also about the point when I had about 30 pages of my dissertation written, and was just starting to kick my own ass every frickin’ night once the Twins went to bed with ice-cream-and-beer-fueled “THIS!IS!SPARTA!” thesis-writing binges usually lasting until about two in the morning. Although the topic of my wife and me having more kids would occasionally come up from time to time, it was primarily as a ridiculously funny joke, as several medical professionals had deemed our reproductive organs to be barren wastelands of fossilized sperm with no tails and one of those egg cartons everyone leaves on the grocery store shelf because it got dropped by that guy who wasn’t paying attention while he was checking the expiration date because he was obnoxiously talking on his cell phone about his entire life story for everyone in the store to hear. These, of course, are highly technical medical terms.
On any given night, from about 10 pm to whenever gets the job done, you’re likely to find a single light on in my house–one in the living room by a recliner we inherited from my wife’s grandfather. And in that chair, you are likely to find a disheveled, stubbly-faced thirty-something man hunched over a laptop, cussing out a Microsoft Word document at a volume that will wake neither the sleeping three-year-olds around the corner nor a pregnant woman passed out on the nine-pillow sculpture she has meticulously perfected over the past few weeks. While verbally abusing his own abused verbiage, he’ll likely be nursing a craft IPA or a bowl of ice cream (or both)–you know, just to take the edge off.
In case you haven’t already Sherlocked where I’m going with this, the insomniac in question is me.
While sleep and I are super duper BFFs and take cute selfies with each other like every single night, I elect to stay up after corralling the kids into the bathroom so they can spend 15 minutes whining about not wanting to brush their teeth and two minutes actually doing it; after reading multiple bedtime stories and refusing third encores; after watching my unborn child kick around my wife’s uterus while taking in whatever’s on our DVR; after my wife crashes in the middle of a show and I’m fighting sleep myself even though it’s only 9:30. Yes, despite all of this, I stay up because I have unfinished bidness. Even though I’ve found a big boy job I absolutely love and am working it full-time, I still have that all important, all-encompassing, all-kinds-of-psychotic last step of my PhD to plow through–my dissertation.
I’ll admit I take weekends off, and even a weekday here and there, but since about May of this year, I’ve been on this late-night regiment for a consistent four nights a week. Come 10 pm, I’m in that chair. Thinking. Number-crunching. Writing. Chasing. Snoozing. Wiping the drool off my face. Deleting the full page and a half of letter W’s my dead hand made while I was unconscious. Taking a sip of beer. Taking another five sips. Sighing loudly. Thinking. Number-crunching. Writing. Chasing.
In mid-September I cleared the first hurdle and laid the first draft of my thesis to rest–all 229 pages of it–and turned it into the chair of my committee for his feedback. Then came revisions, which bled into October, and once that was finally done, November’s late nights have been spent tackling the slideshow for presentation at my defense.
For those unfamiliar with the process, after writing and revising your kajillion-page dissertation, you are then asked to “defend” it to a committee of faculty chosen by you. This committee reviews your thesis, and then, at the “defense,” you present your findings in person, followed by the committee asking questions to challenge the validity and thoroughness of your work while barraging you with paintball guns to break your concentration. If the committee is satisfied with the answers you provide, 99 red balloons fall from the ceiling and Bill Murray inexplicably wanders in from the street to shake your hand and congratulate you on becoming a doctor just before performing an impromptu karaoke rendition of The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” On the other hand, if the committee is not satisfied, you are handcuffed by an enormous sluglike creature named Jabba and shuttled out to the middle of the desert to be cast into a Sarlacc pit for all eternity.
My family’s kajillionth listen of Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” was suddenly interrupted by the ringing of my cell phone on the car’s Bluetooth. This did not faze the Twins, who just kept on singing, reminding their audience that the cold never bothered them anyway. My wife and I had just picked them up from school, and like most school days, they’d gotten a fresh jolt of energy during the drive home, proceeding to uncontrollably kick the front seats and belt out lyrics with absolutely no regard for the melody or their mother’s migraine.
Without even looking at the caller ID, I answered. Typically my mother calls us on our drive home to see how the Twins’ day at school was. They’ve been attending semi-sporadically since the summer of last year, but as my PhD work has gotten increasingly demanding with each passing semester, we’ve slowly been increasing their weekly amount of school days. (And yes, I’m calling it “school” for a reason. This place has a big-kid curriculum, individualized learning goals for each kid, and even parent-teacher conferences. It is decidedly not a “daycare.”)
As you may remember, for most of the time I’ve spent on campus to do my doctoral work, my mother has very graciously taken care of the Dynamic Duo. However, due to some other important family commitments (which are beyond the scope of this Twincident), she’s been in and out of town, prompting us to seek other (tragically not-for-free) care options for the kids. The transition hasn’t always been easy, with several month-long plagues of sickness throwing off any weekly routine we hoped to establish, sometimes resulting in tearful toddlers at the morning drop-off, but lately, we’ve finally, finally, FINALLY found a groove.
And so whether she’s here in town, hunting Chupacabras in the Mexican wilderness, or scaling Mt. Everest to destroy the Eighth Horcrux, my mom calls us nearly every school day on our way home to see how the Twins’ day was, partly because she really and truly wants them to do well and partly (I’m guessing) because she misses them and wishes she could see them more often.
But when I answered the phone, I found that it wasn’t my mom after all.
“Hello?” I barked casually.
“Hi, I’m looking for John?” said an unfamiliar female voice, cranked to 11 on the car stereo while the kids were still screaming Frozen lyrics.
“Yes,” I called, clawing for my phone in my pocket to turn off the Bluetooth. “This is John.”
“Hi John, I’m calling about the position you interviewed for yesterday.” She hesitated for a moment, assumedly due to the stereophonic pixie voices booming, “I don’t caaaaare what they’re goooing to saaaaay!” Then, she continued. “Is this a good time to talk?”
One of the most thrilling perks of being a PhD student stems from the suspense of visiting the campus restroom. No, really! I’m serious. When you share a space with undergraduate students, you never quite know what you’re going to see when you walk in the door, making for an always-captivating mini-sightseeing adventure, right in the middle of the day.
For instance, creative undergrad use of the facilities often leads to fantastic signs I’d think would be appropriate for my two-year-old son, and NOT for the over-18 crowd. Consider this gem I found in the Engineering building:
Yes, that’s right. Engineering students were apparently having so much trouble with the physics of their own fluids that a visual aid was deemed necessary.
Additional fantastic signage can be found in this newer, more upscale campus restroom:
Again, I could see this as a valid reminder for my two-year-olds, who will climb on absolutely anything they can reach. Had there been a strategically-placed stepstool in this facility, this sign could definitely have applied to them (that is, if they could read). However, I’m not so sure what grown man in his right mind would decide to sit on this sink. Not only would said psychopath drench his ass and get in the way of fellow patrons…but…I mean…why? Sure, there’s some pretty nice marble on this particular sink (I’m not taking that for granite–HAHAHAHAHA), but didn’t hanging out in the boys’ room stop being cool in middle school? Apparently not.
It still feels strange to say this, but the Twins have started school.
While I have no doubt in my mind that my little geniuses could already slaughter Doogie Howser at Jeopardy (it would be legen–wait for it–dary), this first foray into the academic world is not related to their obviously high cognitive abilities, but instead an opportunity to begin their formal education early. You see, while they were still chillaxing in their mother’s uterine jacuzzi, we got them on the lengthy waiting list for a fairly exclusive toddler class conveniently held on my college’s campus, and we’d watched them slowly climb their way to the top ever since.
Thus, as the new school year approached, the all-important question as to whether they would be granted access to the program hung in the air like the faint, gaseous remnants of a diaper blowout. Our hopes high, we gathered with the other families in our District who had children on the waiting list for a public announcement of the class’s new students. As the odd, eccentric university spokeswoman took the stage, the tension was so thick that it needed to cut carbohydrates from its diet.
But as luck would have it, our progeny were both selected, punctuated by thumbs-up-shaped balloons falling from the rafters and commemorative t-shirts emblazoned with bow-wearing stick figures being shot into the masses. The Twins had been chosen!