I watched the sun as it crawled toward the horizon through a line of palm trees just off in the distance. Despite it being early October, the temperature was still in the mid-eighties, meaning a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops were the only way to go. A cool breeze blew through my toes as I finished off my Philly cheesesteak and glanced at my wife and kids around the table.
No, we were not on vacation. We were not at the beach. In fact, we were actually sitting outside at a restaurant only a few miles from our house. This is Arizona’s “Fall,” and after four months of 110-degree weather, it reminds us every year the real reason we live here.
Gazing at the orange sky silhouetted by palms, I told my wife, “I know you grew up here, but every time I see a sight like this, it still feels like I’m on vacation.” (I was raised in Connecticut, where it was not uncommon to expect snow on Halloween.)
“Yep,” she replied. “This is like the best time of year. And it goes by so fast.” She’s right. As soon as the weather cools off, it always feels like a dead sprint through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
But this evening, with autumn still new and shiny, time seemed to stand still.
“Are we still getting ice cream?” asked my son, who had just finished his chicken nuggets.
“Well, yeah, Buddy,” my wife replied. “We are, but we’re still waiting for Sister to finish her dinner.”
My son eyed his sister, who was leisurely nibbling on her fries, with plenty still piled on her plate. He grimaced. “Is this a dessert place, too?”
“No, Buddy. They only have chicken nuggets and French fries and Mommy and Daddy’s cheesesteaks.” (And yes, in case you’re wondering, cheesesteaks followed by ice cream were, in fact, my pregnant wife’s idea. Boo-yah.)
Looking up from her fries, my daughter chimed in. “I saw cookies inside.”
“You don’t have an Easter bonnet for her?” my mother gasped.
My wife had just unveiled the dress she’d bought our daughter to wear for Easter, but apparently it was an incomplete ensemble. “Um, no?” my wife replied, confused.
“But how can she go to church on Eater Sunday without an Easter bonnet?”
Something my wife did not learn until this Easter is the importance my mother places on the little girls in our family having bonnets to accompany their dresses on Easter Sunday. Growing up with two younger sisters, I remember it being the biggest effing deal every year for them to find the perfect hats for their outfits, because my dad and I would wait for my mom and sisters outside of every damn clothing store in the mall, wondering what the hell was taking them so long, often ditching them to buy me a couple of packs of baseball cards. (Thanks, Dad!)
“Well,” my mother smiled. ” Don’t worry. I’ll find her a bonnet.”
We weren’t worried, Mom.
With all that my wife and I have going on (and the knowledge that no hat stays on my daughter’s head for longer than five minutes anyway), our feeling was, Sure, if it will make your heart sing to get her a bonnet, knock yourself out.
Sure enough, a day or two later, when we were picking up the kids from her house, my mother presented us with a pinkish-purple bonnet she boasted to have found at our local “everything-costs-one-dollar” store, a place she now swears by as THE place to find fun toys, stickers, and holiday favors for the Twins without breaking the bank.
We had to admit, the bonnet was pretty darn adorable, so it was settled–our daughter now had an Easter bonnet and my mother would finally be able to sleep at night again.
“Okaaaay, whooo’s readyyy?” sang my wife.
The Twins stared back with tiny brows furrowed, still working out why the hell there was now a tree in our living room.
“We’re going to decorate the tree for Christmas!” she beamed. This is a tradition my wife and I look forward to every year–one we absolutely could not wait to include the Twins in. Although last year was their first Christmas, they were still about a month away from walking and even further from the precise hand technology required for hooking an ornament onto a tree branch.
However, this year would be different, as they now demonstrate proficiency in not only walking, but also running, especially away from Daddy while stealing his iPhone, and verify their accurate hand-eye coordination as they unlock said iPhone in order to delete apps and contacts (if your name begins with “M” and and you never hear from me again, it was a pleasure knowing you).
“Oh, look!” my wife chimed, pulling out the Inaugural Ornament of the 2012 Pseudonymous Christmas Season. She sat on the floor as the Twins rushed over. “This is a very special ornament that Grandma got us when you were still in Mommy’s tummy. See, these snowmen are our family. There’s a daddy snowman like Daddy, a mommy snowman like Mommy, and then a little girl snowman and a little boy snowman, like you!”
As buried as I am in my edumacation, I thrive on routine because I know when I can expect to just barely pull off a project minutes before its deadline without being interrupted by disagreements over whose Mickey Mouse sticker is whose. While my über-regimented schedule lacks the spontaneity I prefer, knowing exactly when I can sit and focus free of tiny face-fives keeps me productive and sane–both highly desirable qualities in a person entrusted with the lives of multiple one-year-olds.
Since I live on a planet where academic research design and Disney Sing-Along-Songs are king, I’d entirely forgotten that Easter was, in fact, this weekend, and I’m a little ashamed to confess that my gut reaction to this realization was annoyance.
I spread myself thinly across multiple, often conflicting responsibilities. Student John and Stay-At-Home-Dad are in a constant death match, each plotting against the other to undermine the otherwise phenomenal jobs they each perform. They let Writer John out of his crate roughly once a week, and as soon as that latch is lifted, Writer John careens through the door and sprints figure eights around the living room with the laptop, spouting mirthful gibberish like The Great Cornholio. But as soon as Writer John has flung his brainchild out into the tangled Interweb, he’s back in the holding cell, from which he shouts genius ideas for blogs, novels, and 3-D feature films, hoping against hope that the other Johns hear, but knowing deep down that a majority of them tragically will vanish into the ether, neglected and unwritten. While all of this goes on, Husband John–the unofficial fearless leader–watches from the couch. It’s been difficult for Husband John to get a word in as of late, with all of the demands the others have needed to handle, but at the last chapter meeting, he dropped a bomb on everyone.
“So has anyone had any thoughts about what we’re doing for Valentine’s Day?”
The room fell silent.
“You all forgot, didn’t you?”
My son has created a catch phrase that very well could sweep the nation. You may not have heard it yet because it is currently being swept under the nation’s rug, but once this news hits the interweb, look out.
The pop culture revolution began with my mother, who watches the Twins twice a week while I doctorize on campus. As the kids slowly become geniuses just like their parents, they are constantly acquiring new skills and lifehacks–like standing up and walking on their own, infiltrating government-grade security measures, or composing their very first rock opera (entitled American Infant) with nothing but a toy xylophone and Daddy’s GarageBand app.
Appropriately, whenever the Twins would use their newfound superpowers for good, my mother made a point to positively reinforce these behaviors, thus congratulating, “You did it!”
This became an overnight chart-topper with the kids, and soon, around November, every time my son accomplished a task, he’d triumphantly proclaim, “Did it!”
I wanted to finish baby-proofing our house earlier. I really did. But it’s the thought that counts.
I had the best intentions when I began work in October, and have slowly made what I believe to be significant progress given the circumstances, as the project has been narrowly constrained by multiple, immovable factors:
1) My Fans
I am apparently so incredibly awesome and compelling that my pint-sized fans cannot bear the thought of me leaving the room. Not to go to the bathroom, wash dishes, get diapers, or anything else that takes longer than five seconds. The Experts call this “separation anxiety.” I call it “the reason I can’t get anything done around the house unless I want an improvisational high-pitched duet as a soundtrack.” Due to sharp drills and screwdrivers and the same hazardous cabinet contents I’m trying to bar from their tiny, inquisitive hands, I can’t have them climbing all over me while I install latchery. Keeping them in the room with me as I work necessitates restrictive holding cells such as Pack ‘n’ Plays and Exersaucers, but they are proficiently crawling their way to walking any day now, and thus assertively refuse any restraints in efforts normally attributed to Wild Horses and Freebirds and Eyes of Tigers. These factors all imply that the ideal baby-proofing window is during a Nap Overlap or Ni-Night Time. Aside from the fact that a Nap Overlap itself is rare, the slightest of sounds from a pin dropping to a grizzly bear/man hybrid slamming a car door can wake them, so firing up the drill while they’re asleep is simply ill-advised.
2) My Schedule
Two of my weekdays are spent on campus studying in preparation for world domination. I have not yet taken my program’s Building and Remotely Controlling Your Own Robot Henchman 101 class, so baby-proofing production grinds to an unfortunate halt on these days. The remaining three weekdays are dedicated to house-husbanding and twin-wrangling, which, as I just mentioned, are not conducive to accomplishing anything but avoiding tantrums and occasionally escaping for a guerrilla laundry load. This leaves the weekends, the only time we are together as a family, during which we spend quality time driving around town running errands, and every once in a while, pretending we have a social life. This aspect has recently been amplified by…