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.
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?”
1. Get into a fistfight over a Lego
2. Get into a fistfight over a sticker
3. Get into a fistfight over a toy we’ve bought two of so they won’t fistfight over it
4. Steal Daddy’s phone
5. Get into a fistfight over Daddy’s phone
6. Reply to emails from Daddy’s dissertation chair with gibberish
7. Break something, causing a fistfight
8. Break something, during a fistfight
9. Climb onto the kitchen table
10. Go streaking
11. Dump out the dog’s water dish and claim to be ice-skating
12. Empty the toybox I just spent a half hour filling while they sat on their asses singing “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere” and contributed a single toy between the two of them
It’s that time of year again, O Loyal Reader. The most important holiday of the year is upon us–the one people wait for all year with bated breath. It’s just a mere few days away, and I can hardly contain myself. I just can’t believe it’s almost Black Friday again!
Just kidding. I couldn’t care less about Black Friday or Cyber Monday or Max Out Your Credit Card Tuesday or Buyer’s Remorse Wednesday. While in my mind Christmas will forever be the King of All Holidays, there’s still a lot to be said for Thanksgiving.
Of course, I haven’t really had a moment to say anything about it because I’m: 1) in the middle of (FINALLY) running a research study for my dissertation; 2) organizing another study as a research assistant; 3) battling a terrible viral infection that has struck my entire family (including my dog and this one scorpion I found blowing snot-rockets in my backyard); 4) fathering the Dynamic Duo; and 5) trying to figure out where I can get a good deal on a partridge in a pear tree on Max Out Your Credit Card Tuesday.
It’s no secret I’ve been a little short on blog posts here lately. I am reminded of this every time I leave my house when I have to shoo away the protesters who stand constant vigil on my front lawn with signs demanding, “More Crappy Stick Figures!” and “What do we want? Mildly clever pop culture puns! When do we want them? Now!”
Luckily, I happen to have written one of my favorite Twincidents about Thanksgiving one year ago. While I’ve never done the whole reposting thing before, I feel like this one has a message worth repeating, so I decided to carefully dust off the text file character-by-character and present it to you in this newly-restored, digitally-remastered, platinum edition, which now includes an afterword with B. A. Baracus himself, the one and only Mr. T. With this more-than-sufficient amount of ado, I give you: