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.
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.
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?
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.
This past week was utterly exhausting. My wife and I have gotten into what we think to be a phenomenal rhythm given the fact that we’re simultaneously raising twice the children most do, but it was derailed by several unavoidable circumstances, and we have literally spent every scarce free moment sleeping. Among these disturbances in The Force were: childcare conflicts, altered work schedules (including me taking 2.5 days off work for a preseason exhibition of the stay-at-home fathering bidness), a visit from the Teething Fairy, and a raging deathmatch with an uncommon—possibly zombified—housefly.
So please forgive me, O Loyal Reader, for neglecting you. I know our relationship is still new and exciting, and you may even still feel those first-date jitters as you savor this page. Fear not, for as a result of the past half-fortnight, multiple twincidents are in gestation. I’ve just really gotten into this Rip Van Winkle impression. (I have the week-long beard to prove it.) In fact, in attempting to report these late-breaking developments, I even found myself a victim of the trite, unrealistic, melodramatic Hollywood cliché of literally falling asleep at my keyboard.
While mind-blowing twincidents exploring the aforementioned topics are forthcoming, in the spirit of the week, I thought I’d offer a portrait of its haze—my Sunday afternoon nap.
I’ve never been a napper, or even a sleeper for that matter. While I recognize that as a human I need sleep, I’d prefer not to. There are so many amazing things to experience in the world, and to me, sleep has always felt so…idle. My parents could tell you that even when I was a strapping young whippersnapper, they’d find me with my light on at 3 a.m. (even—*GASP*—on a school night!), reading such literary classics as the Choose Your Own Adventure Series and The Uncanny X-Men. “I wasn’t tired,” I’d say. Even with the arrival of the Twins and occasional sleepless nights, my body rarely needs a break aside from normal nighttime sleep.
This means that when I do decide I need a nap, you’d better let me. My wife knows this, and heeds this commandment religiously. This afternoon, however, there was some red tape involved in securing said nap.
I had just returned from the grocery store, finished putting our bounty away, and collapsed onto the couch. “So I think I do want to take that nap.”
She had noticed my fatigue earlier in the day and gently suggested that my less-than-chipper demeanor might necessitate a siesta. I had decided that since we had no food, I’d rather get groceries done first because I’m even more fun when I’m hungry. “I feel myself starting to get annoyed about stupid things. Like, at the store, I almost flipped out when the lady in front of me in the dairy aisle couldn’t figure out which yogurt defined her as a person.”
My wife, who was holding my son, smiled sweetly, sensing the impending doom if I stayed awake. “Well, she (our daughter) is down for a nap in our room, so I don’t think you should go in there.” This is because I am a champion snorer. I was even up for a Grammy in the “Snoring—Short Form” category last year. My snoring would undoubtedly wake my daughter who, unfortunately, has inherited her father’s sleeping habits. Her thirst for stimulation makes any interruptions in her sleep particularly traumatic—for us, not her.
Straightening up my wriggling son, his frog legs kicking spastically, she continued. “He just woke up a half hour ago, so it probably won’t be quiet out here. You can crash on the couch out here if you want, but I can’t promise he won’t scream his head off.” My son is proficient at this, especially in extremely short, unexpected bursts. There’s already Grammy buzz for when he’s eligible. He’s his father’s son.
“I guess I could try,” I replied, really attempting to convince myself it would work.
“We need another bed,” she mused, looking around the room, as if hoping for one to appear, like in a terrible, low-budget mattress commercial.
“What about the air mattress?”
“Where would we put it?”
“Maybe in the Cluster Room.” The Cluster Room is our only spare room, which has become more of a closet. Home to our towering bookshelves, furniture dethroned by baby paraphernalia, and a Rock Band drum controller, it’s quite the clusterf**k. (Hence the name.)
“No,” I realized. “The pump would wake her up anyway. Maybe I could take the crib in the kids’ room,” I snarked.
She chuckled. “Or their floor.”
“Can you think of a better idea?”
“Not really,” I sighed.
With that, I took the best available pillow, a five-dollar gem we let guests sleep on and have more recently been placing on the floor under our Exersaucer and jumper as a booster for our kids’ dangling feet so they can actually use them. I scoured it for poopy-diaper-blowout debris, and turned to my wife. “So are you coming?”
“Well, aren’t you gonna swaddle me and sing me a song?”
“Go to sleep.”
“I’m turning the monitor on. If you don’t hear me, just make sure I’m not suffocating under the blanket.”
When I opened the door, I heard the kids’ Sound Machine (we have been unable to confirm whether or not it is from Miami) still hissing white noise from my son’s last nap, and switched it to the “Womb” setting. Just for funsies.
Emptying my pockets, I camped out on the floor, and then decided, of course, to outline the whole occurrence for this very blog entry on my phone before actually attempting sleep. Even when I’m beat, I fight it.
As I finally closed my eyes, the Sunday-afternoon dread flooded in. I realized that I had still not figured out what the hell I’d be teaching all week; that the stack of neglected grading on my desk would be growing another story if I didn’t tackle it soon; that I have extra work projects to which I probably shouldn’t have committed waiting for me, and thus little desire to do them.
But then I realized that even if I wanted to put a dent in any of this, I couldn’t handle any of it as exhausted as I was. So sleep would have to come first. Plus, I remembered that I am trained in improvisational comedy, reaffirming my self-awesomeness at making stuff up as I go–at finishing sentences I’ve started without knowing how they’ll end. And that’s when I drifted off…
Two glorious hours later, I woke up with a stiff neck to the sound of my daughter throwing a hissy.