I took a deep breath as I plopped onto the couch. It had been a marathon day for our family, kicking off with a frantic search for the baskets of goodies the Easter Bunny had hidden for the Twins in the living room the night before, followed by church, a breakfast/Easter egg hunt at my in-laws’, a lunch/extended hangout at my parents’ house (which also included my in-laws), and an epic, multi-generational game of Spoons resulting in literal bloodshed for several family members.
We’d just gotten back home from the festivities at about four in the afternoon. My daughter, who had fallen into a post-candy coma in the car, was still passed out on the couch, while my son was assessing his toy/sweets inventory on the living room floor, unpacking his three Easter baskets (yes, the Easter Bunny visited both grandparents’ houses, too) and lining up his loot.
I am not a napper, but after the day we’d had out in the Arizona heat, I was just about to nod off when the silence was broken.
It was my wife. I’ll admit that my initial reaction was annoyance because she’d used her Desperately Important Tone of Voice, which is usually reserved for Dire Emergencies, like when it is critical that I retrieve a box of her scarves I did not even know existed from the top shelf of our closet, or when a bug that was “crawling across the floor, trying to eat her” turns out to be a ball of lint. You know, the heavy shit.
Sighing lazily, I rose from the couch. “I’ll be right back, Buddy,” I told my son.
“Okay, Daddy,” he said, eyes still on his gear. “I’m just going to sit here and line up all of the things that the Easter Bunny brought me because I got a lot of things and I’m putting them in a line so I can see the ones that I have and then I’m going to play wiff them.”
“Sounds good, Buddy.”
I headed into our bedroom, ready to be underwhelmed by my wife’s latest “crisis.” But when I saw her standing in the bathroom with ET-sized eyes, I knew right away that something was different. This might actually be A Big Deal.
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?”
Sprawled out on my back amidst the Duplos, Thomas train tracks, and Fisher Price Little People that frequent the playroom floor, my daughter snaps me out of a momentary spaceout.
Grunting, I sit up groggily to field her request. Although my wife had worked from home today, it hadn’t been any less exhausting keeping the kids occupied and quiet while she ran in and out of the room with her cell phone and laptop, straining to hear her conference calls over squawks and shrieks for juice and raisins. On this particular night, my wife had a work dinner event to attend, leaving me in charge of the day’s Closing Ceremonies with the Dynamic Duo.
“What’s up, Baby Girl?” I ask my daughter.
The pigtails she’d dismantled the moment Mommy left poked frizzily from either side of her head, totally undermining her deadly serious demeanor. “Snowman,” she insists. “All gone.”
“That’s right, Baby,” I chuckle. “The snowman’s all gone. But he’ll be back on Christmas Day.” One of our Christmas decorations is a snowman that hangs from the front doorknob. She’d taken note of it during the holiday season and every day since we’ve taken it down, she’s reminded us that it’s missing–even now, almost two months after Christmas.
And every time she does this, she blows my mind.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we recently celebrated the Twins’ Second Birthday, and ever since the 1st of the year, the Twins have been making cognitive leaps and bounds daily. It’s as if their neurons have all finally joined Facebook and are friending each other. Their abilities to imagine, remember, reason, and verbalize have kicked into overdrive.
My daughter breaks into a beaming, jack-o’-lantern smile and giggles, “Snowman all gone,” thrilled that Daddy has confirmed what she already knew was right.
Noticing the clock, I rise to my feet and bellow, “Okay, kids! Bath time!” Continue reading
“Stupid rental car,” my wife growled.
“Huh?” I bumbled, snapping out of an exhausted daze. “I thought we liked the rental car.”
Having ventured to Maui with my parents, we’d rented a minivan that would comfortably fit the six of us and our fleet of Traveling Toddler Circus props. Even with the two extra adults there was still plenty of room. Compared to the 4-door sedan we usually cart the kids around in and into which certain strollers only fit one way (when inserted with ninja precision), it was a veritable vehicular vacation on top of our location vacation. In fact, it had inspired us to seek out a van of our own once we returned to Phoenix. Or so I thought as my wife suddenly slandered our steed’s good name.
“We do like it, except for this stupid speedometer. I have no idea how fast I’m going.”
Straightening up on the passenger side, I leaned towards my wife at the wheel to survey the dash. The numbers and gauges shone brightly up at us as we traversed the dark, sans-streetlight coastal road. On this particular night my parents were out on a date and my wife and I were headed back to the hotel with our passed-out munchkins. When it’s just the four of us, my wife usually opts to drive due to her propensity for motion sickness and a particularly vocal flair for back-seat driving. While many of my male peers might see this as gender-role sacrilege, I assure you, this is the optimal driving arrangement.
Examining the dashboard, I saw exactly what my wife was talking about. A digital gauge displayed her speed in kilometers per hour rather than miles per hour.
It is said that the apparently innocuous act of a butterfly flapping its wings can cause an unseen chain reaction of events leading to a hurricane on the other side of the world, or even a mediocre Ashton Kutcher movie that forever taints everyone’s idea of an inherently cool Chaos Theory concept.
Many doubt the validity of the Butterfly Effect, but I have always seen it as a special Effect. If you think about it, there is at least some truth to it. Every choice, every action we take on a daily basis–we can’t even begin to fathom their impact on the courses of our lives. Often I wonder how different things would be if just one occurrence in my life were even slightly altered…
. . .
As always, it had been an eventful morning in the Twiniverse, as my son had decided he was just not that into napping, stubbornly insisting on playing instead, even though every gesture and interaction with his toys pissed him right off. Apparently he preferred the baby equivalent of cussing out his Sesame Street Singing Pop-Up Pals to giving in to the slumber he obviously required.
After 45 minutes of rocking, pacing, and possibly even a little begging on my part, I had finally gotten him to sleep, and as an added bonus, my daughter was especially cooperative (or exhausted–I’ll take either), drifting off right on schedule. Two naps. At the same time. As I’ve mentioned before, this Nap Overlap is a rare occurrence worthy of its own celebratory dance.
But meanwhile, unbeknownst to me or my napping progeny, a menace had descended upon our cul-de-sac, one that would severely alter the next hour of my life…forever.
. . .
People get in and out of automobiles every day, and thus, the closing of vehicle doors has become a routine act for drivers and passengers alike, one performed without even thinking about it. However, people execute this task with varying degrees of force. This, O Loyal Reader, is the hard-hitting issue that I want to soften today, and the reason I’ve gathered you all here.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, it will still probably wake up my son and daughter. So if a car door slams loudly in my neck of the woods, I will consider slamming the neck of your body with said fallen tree.
Now, when I say “slam” I truly mean a slam. I realize that to properly close a vehicular entrance point, one must apply oomph, yielding that satisfying latch clack alerting the user of a successful close, and by no means am I complaining about a normal, human-style close. Such sound effects from fellow neighborhood dwellers are perfectly acceptable. The Twins’ rooms are equipped with white-noise Sound Machines (which I suspect to be from Miami), and their continuous, atmospheric whooshing does a stellar job at dampening the intensity of incoming sound waves such as sane-person door closing.
I don’t even mind my dog’s proficiency at notifying me that an area automobile has been shut (just in case I missed it) because I have become adept at silencing her so she does not wake the Dynamic Duo from their static state.
However, nothing could have prepared me for The Car Door Slam Heard ‘Round the Neighborhood.
. . .
Our house is situated in such a way that our living room is in the middle of the house, three rooms away from the wall facing the street. Yet, somehow, someone (or something) was able to uber-slam his/hers/its vehicle so loudly that it sounded like the Kool-Aid Man was trying to “Oh yeah” his fat glass ass through my wall, but had severely underestimated its density.
I literally jumped on impact, inspecting each room just to make sure I wasn’t crazy and nothing had fallen, rushing back into the living room every three seconds to shush my barking canine. But just as I realized this was, in fact, some psycho grizzly bear/man hybrid taking a sprinting start and throwing a double-pawed flying-kick at some poor, innocent vehicle, my exhausted son woke up in a livid inferno of streaming tears and tiny, kicking feet.
In a flash of faux-genius, I irrationally considered setting my son safely back in his crib, grabbing one of my ninja swords, and avenging his ravaged sleep pattern, but realized that whoever or whatever had created this disturbance was probably of superhuman persuasion (Vampire? X-Man? Decepticon?) and not worth messing with. After all, I’m a father now.
Picking up my son, I eased into the rocking chair and coaxed him back to sleep. For another 45 minutes.
. . .
So, as you can see, the closing of a car door is sometimes not just the closing of a car door. Every once in a while, when a grizzly bear/man hybrid pummels a Ford Galaxie with a shovel, it can cause a human monsoon devastating entire hours of a parent’s life–hours that a stay-at-home dad/Ph. D. student hybrid could have been spent figuring out that damned statistics problem he has been attempting for days, or burning one’s mouth on the scalding interior of a Hot Pocket while capitalizing on the first free moment to eat lunch, or even writing for a fine publication very much akin to the one you are reading.
My point, O Loyal Reader, is this: You can never truly know the implications of your seemingly small, insignificant actions. So next time you are entering or leaving a vehicle, please be aware of surrounding residences that could contain stay-at-home parents who are less sane than myself, and who very well could retaliate in straitjacket-inspiring fashion.
Unless, of course, you are prepared to be Rocked Like a Hurricane.
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If not, that’s fine. Just go easy on that car door on your way out.
With Month-Marker Eight looming in the not-so-distant future, I find myself in futile daydreams of Steampunk time-pausing/travel inventions allowing me to (re)experience the unfathomably amazing moments of The First Year. Even though I’m with the Dynamic Duo more than anyone, it never feels like it’s enough because I know this babyhood thang is temporary.
I’d prefer not to tritely say “They grow up so fast” (even though it’s SO true), so I hereby submit a far greater phrase for nation-sweeping candidacy: “They grow up faster than a Red-Bull-guzzling cheetah in a Lamborghini on the Autobahn with his pregnant, twin-carrying cheetah wife going into labor.”
Go ahead, picture that for a minute. Man. Now that’s fast.
Coping with Age Velocity is common among parents, and I’ve found my personal remedy to be occupying as much hard drive space as possible with photos and HD video, immortalizing epic Twincidents on this fine publication, and simply being present. I’m as guilty as anyone of distracting myself with social media and my beloved television shows, but when I weigh reading Facebook statuses about going back to work again or pictures of meals people for some reason feel compelled to broadcast against snuggling my offspring or cracking them up to the point of hiccups with stupid human tricks, it’s a pretty easy decision.
Due to the recent addition of raptor-sharp teeth to Thing 1 and Thing 2’s mouths and their growing interest in non-cannibalistic foods, the Breastfeeding Buffet has officially closed up shop. It was a difficult journey for my wife, especially to feed twice the usual mouth quota with absolutely no experience, and I’m so unbelievably in awe of her resilience and desire to fill our Twinfants with the Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner of Champions. Now that it’s over, I know she feels like a layer of connection is missing between the munchkins and her, but it’s getting better as we’ve watched them exponentially blossom with the acquisition of new essential life skills such as playing toy pianos with one’s heel, biting one’s sibling’s toes, and escaping the clutches of a diaper-changing table at all costs.
So, as Cafe Mommy throws in the towel, pump, and Boppy, I’d like to commemorate its months of legendary customer service with a testimonial from our daughter.
But it’s not a verbal testimonial. It’s far greater.
Every night, just before bed, my daughter would get into her feeding groove, her eyes gradually closing as if losing herself in a shoegaze indie jam. And that’s when my wife and I knew it was coming.
The Pete Townshend Windmill.
That’s right. Believe it or not, with her mouth still firmly attached, our daughter would swing her arm just like the legendary guitarist of The Who. She’d do a few semi-circle warm-ups, and then rock out to the thumping of Mommy’s heartbeat.
How do I express to you, O Loyal Reader, the sheer awesomeness of this occurrence? My already-mind-blowingly-cute daughter…taking after my musical hero…PLUS BOOBIES!
Are you kidding me?
I will concede that her arm did not always travel as quickly as Pete’s. However, one particular adaptation of this iconic gesture is a dead-on representation of her breast-milk bliss–the future Wyld Stallyns fans in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
I may not have a time-traveling phone booth at my disposal, but I’ll still always be able to return to my daughter’s air-band performances in my mind’s eye, and, at least to me, Woodstock’s got nothing on them.
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If not, maybe you can invent a time machine and get that time back. If you do, let me know. I’m in the market for one.