After a plaything inventory over the weekend, we decided that
Mom and Dad the Twins were growing bored with our current toy selection, so we took Double Trouble for their first ever visit to Toys “R” Us. (Don’t worry, I was sure to alert them to the store name’s grammatical usage error. Papa is not inclined to raise any fools, you all.)
I had not been to a Toys “R” Us for years, and as I crossed the threshold, was promptly reminded how much I don’t wanna grow up. Although I’m quickly closing in on three decades of John, one of the perks of parenting is the justification for purchasing badass toys without appearing to be The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy. So many groundbreaking advances in toy technology have been made since I was last in the market for toys years ago, and I attribute this to Toy Succession, a principle I am just now making up, positing that toys are improved as each generation grows up and applies changes they wish they had when they were children, ultimately allowing already-awesome toys to become uber-awesome.
For example, when I was a child Legomaniac, there were only three Lego genres on the market: Town, Castle, and Space. Now, a glimpse at the Lego section of a toy store features too many to count, including Star Wars, Harry Potter, SpongeBob Squarepants, and even Ninjas! Gone are the days of having to imagine that a black space helmet is a ninja mask. Just as the iPhone probably has “an app for that,” Lego has a piece for that.
During the course of the We Are Toys visit my wife and I got separated, which is easy to do amidst such fine merchandise, especially as a new parent fueled by the excitement of sharing it with our kids and getting that genuine, unbridled ear-to-ear smile we parents feed off like addicts. I was flying solo with the shopping car, while my wife was rollin’ hard with the double stroller and thus, the Twinfants. When I finally caught up with the rest of my family, I found my daughter glomming intently on a Sesame-Street-themed piece of cardboard packaging, with the back side facing up. “What’s that you have there, little girl?” I asked.
For those who are not parents, this is a fun thing we do when requesting information–directing the question to the baby who cannot reply sufficiently while the other parent (who actually knows the answer and, as an added bonus, can verbalize it) is in earshot.
My wife spoke for my daughter. “A stuffed Elmo. I showed it to her to see if she liked it and she just grabbed it and started chewing it.” As mentioned previously, the Twins, like legions of other half-pints, are card-carrying members of Elmo’s Army.
“Cool! Can I see it, little girl?” I inquired, reaching for it.
My daughter’s eyes welled up as I approached the package, and I heard the slow, growing rumble of a tiny freakout. “No, don’t!” My wife hissed. “I already tried to take it. She flipped out. I think we need to take it home.”
I know it’s still early to say this, but I don’t plan on being one to cave just because my kids will cry if I don’t buy them something. Having survived their first colds and the recurring perils of teething, I’ve become relatively desensitized to crying. I’m not saying I’m immune–it’s been scientifically proven that a crying baby upsets anyone–both parents and non-parents. All I’m saying is my adventures as a stay-at-home dad have granted me the power to keep a cool head, even in the face of tears in stereo. On this particular day, both kids happened to be teething hard, so I had no problem with my daughter gnawing on this item–whatever it was–as long as it would quell the day’s tenth tantrum.
“It’s that one,” my wife continued, indicating a colony of “My First Elmos” on the shelf.
I’d already resigned myself to purchasing Her First Elmo, adhering to the axiom of “You break it, you buy it,” or my favorite incarnation of the saying, which we found on a poorly-translated-to-English sign in an Asian restaurant a few years back:
I checked Elmo’s price tag and found a dollar amount to my liking–in fact, I would have willingly bought the toy anyway. No harm, no foul.
However, we came close to a meltdown when wrenching Everyone’s Favorite Monster out of our daughter’s clenched fists as choke-able cardboard/saliva flakes peeked from the corners of her mouth. With a swift, Indiana Jones switch, I thrusted a wad of toy keys into her tiny fingers just after extraction, with limited tantrum-mercial interruption, while my wife inspected her mouth for debris.
Having reflected on this occurrence, particularly my wife’s reasoning, I got to thinking about its implications.
On a completely unrelated note, there is a possibility that tomorrow, I will spontaneously decide to take the Twins to the Apple Store at our local mall. If, during the course of the purely-for-browsing-purposes-only excursion, I happen to show my teething daughter an iPad “to see if she likes it” and “she just grabs it and starts chewing it,” it will not at all be my fault, but I will tragically and begrudgingly be forced to purchase the item, as the pristine Feng Shui Apple packaging will surely be ruined.
Don’t tell my wife.
But if she does happen to get word, I will have the landmark decision of Daughter v. Board of ElmoCasing as a precedent.
As an added precaution, I may or may not slip my daughter the receipt post-purchase.
After all, I wouldn’t want her to make a scene. It may upset the Geniuses.
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If not, wow! Check out this piece of cardboard! That looks pretty tasty.
Can you guess what John is thinking about today? That’s right–Elmo!
You know, Elmo!
John has been watching Sesame Street with John’s Twins for a few months now and John has learned a lot about Elmo, but John has noticed some things about Elmo that confuse John. Unlike Elmo, John has no self-aware drawers and doesn’t have a family of mimes lurking outside John’s window who are always waiting with a smile when “Shade” goes up, so John wondered how to find out more about Elmo’s Worldview.
Then, suddenly, John had a spectacular idea–John should write Elmo a letter!
Here is John’s letter to Elmo:
First of all, John wants to say that John is a huge fan of Elmo’s, and has been ever since John was just a little boy. John remembers when Elmo got his first big break on Sesame Street, starting with only a few special guest appearances, but look at Elmo now! Elmo is the star! Yaaaaay! Plus, whatever Elmo is doing to stay in shape must be working because Elmo doesn’t seem to have aged a day.
John knows that Elmo has haters who are angry about Elmo taking Sesame Street by storm, “stealing” the spotlight away from traditional Street Performers like Big Bird, Oscar, Bert, Ernie, and especially Grover, who–as a result of Elmo’s coup de cutest–has retreated into an even more deluded version of his Super Grover alter-ego, trying way too hard to make himself relevant by unnecessarily upgrading his superhero uniform to “2.0” status and constantly asserting himself as “cute” in a futile, passive-aggressive attempt to dethrone Elmo’s natural, organic cuteness. John will even admit to agreeing with the Anti-Elmo League for a while, but now that John is a Loyal Viewer, John gets it.
Elmo is a natural born entertainer. Eternal optimism, a curious thirst for life, and genuine care for one’s fellow monster make Elmo hard NOT to love–so much so that people are even willing to overlook Elmo speaking exclusively in the third person and avoiding pronouns except the occasional “he” when talking about Elmoself, in order to avoid a rapid-fire, five-“Elmo” sentence. (Did Elmo notice John is doing the same thing in this letter? John wonders if John can get away with it.)
In fact, Elmo is so captivating that John DVRs Sesame Street every day because John often finds the one way John and John’s wife can afford 15 minutes to eat dinner without shrieking banshee interruptions is by putting on “Elmo’s World” for John’s loinfruits. John realizes the “World” is really intended for older viewers, but John’s Twins just adore Elmo and always kick their little feet when they hear the “Elmo’s World Theme Song.”
Which brings John to the reason for this letter.
John knows that Elmo and John are friends because Elmo has told John so in numerous grand, on-air gestures, so since Elmo and John are friends, John feels comfortable asking Elmo just a few earnest queries about the “Elmo’s World Theme Song.”
See, Elmo, John is sure you realize how unbelievably catchy the song is. It was a runaway success in its first incarnation as “Elmo’s Song,” and as “Elmo’s World” has become arguably the Street’s most popular segment, the ditty has become engrained–tattooed even–in the consciousness of parents and children everywhere. John wonders if–when Elmo was writing the song–he acquired government funding for a team of musically-inclined scientists to discover the most irresistibly infectious permutation of notes possible, or maybe had Paul McCartney or Neil Diamond ghost-write it, or even is hiding a resurrected John Lennon somewhere on the set (Oscar’s can?).
John will pause now for Elmo to imagine Neil Diamond singing “Elmo’s World.” Legendary.
John thinks Elmo should get on the phone with Elmo’s agent and make that happen.
Anyway, Elmo, John’s point is the song is addictive. While home with the Twins, John finds himself involuntarily and spontaneously belting out “Elmo’s Song” as if under a spell, and even writing and performing John’s own off-the-cuff verses.
But that’s not even John’s real complaint.
Elmo, John has issue with the lyrics.
La la la-la, la la la-la, Elmo’s World
La la la-la, la la la-la, Elmo’s World
Elmo loves his goldfish,
His crayon, too.
That’s Elmo’s World.
John thinks it will help if John breaks it down.
La la la-la, la la la-la…
Okay, now this makes sense. Not only does this hearken back to the old, classic origin of the song; non-word, sung syllables have proven to be an excellent avenue to a solid hook, as they are easy to remember and facilitate sing-alongs. Look at the beginning of J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold” and the climactic end of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” With this in mind, John is already singing along with Elmo after a single “La.”
Next, Elmo illuminates his Loyal Viewers as to what is happening. Elmo is inviting Elmo’s Loyal Viewers into “Elmo’s World.” Elmo will assumedly proceed to describe what the journey into “Elmo’s World” will be like. Elmo is doing a great job so far!
Elmo loves his goldfish,
According to Elmo’s argument, the first phenomenon to expect in “Elmo’s World” is the love of a pet goldfish. Elmo still has John’s attention here, because this lyric also fits. It is no secret that Elmo loves Dorothy, and rightly so. John is not a big fish guy, but would convert if John had a goldfish who could generate aquarium sculptures with her fish-mind powers, too.
Where did Elmo get Dorothy? Does Dorothy have any relatives that John could adopt? Now, John could point out the rare use of a pronoun in this line, but that’s not a big deal. It would disrupt the fluidity, anyway.
His crayon, too.
There it is, Elmo–the problematic line, the one that keeps John up at night, wondering WHY? It’s definitely apparent that Elmo is a crayon enthusiast. In fact, Elmo’s entire house seems to be constructed from them. But Elmo, John never sees you actually use the crayon. John assumes that possibly, at some point, the crayon was used more frequently, but seldom does Elmo incorporate the crayon into “Elmo’s World” nowadays.
Elmo has already said that Elmo loves his goldfish–why not issue a shout-out to other entities in “Elmo’s World” who help Elmo every day? What about Mr. Noodle, his brother Mr. Noodle, and his sister Ms. Noodle, who realize they are not very bright, but still, every episode, try to answer Elmo’s questions, only to be met with ridicule from voice-over children?
What about “Drawer” who always helps Elmo learn more about what Elmo is thinking about? (Maybe Drawer keeps knocking Elmo over because Drawer is indignant.)
Because it’s a theme song, Elmo only has a short amount of time to encapsulate “Elmo’s World,” and the crayon simply isn’t part of it.
Then, Elmo, the song just ends.
That’s Elmo’s World
No, Elmo, it isn’t. That’s not “Elmo’s World.” Elmo implies that Elmo has summarized the World, but Elmo has only scratched the surface and wasted limited song real estate on a nonessential element.
John hopes this doesn’t upset Elmo, but John just can’t wrap John’s head around it, and because John still busts the song around the house as if in a musical, John is faced with this dilemma every time John sings about that darn crayon.
Please, Elmo. Don’t leave John hanging like this. Why is that line in Elmo’s song?
John has a feeling Elmo understands and thanks Elmo for hearing John out. John looks forward to Elmo’s response.
Author & CEO, Twinfamy
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If not, John is still so happy to see you!
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.