Overheard in a Suburban Phoenix Neighborhood
Are you really done with the stroller?
Because we’re six blocks from home. Are you really going to make me carry you six blocks?
You do realize there’s a reason we bring the stroller, right? See those things down there? What shape are they?
That’s right–they’re circles. See, the circles are wheels, and they make it so Daddy doesn’t have to carry you and your brother while we walk around the neighborhood because if Daddy had to do that, Daddy would probably throw out his back.
In fact, Daddy’s feeling his back right now. Do you see what Daddy’s carrying you with?
That’s right! That’s an arm. Good job, Baby Girl! How many arms is Daddy using to carry you? Let’s count them. Ready?
That’s right. Daddy’s only using one arm. Where is Daddy’s other arm? Do you see Daddy’s other arm? Where is Daddy’s other arm?
THERE’S Daddy’s other arm! Daddy’s other arm is pushing the stroller because your brother is still in the stroller. Do you see how good your brother is being? See that? He’s even drinking his juice.
‘atta boy, buddy.
If MacGyver Were a Ninja…
If MacGyver were a ninja, he’d be unstoppable. His unmatched improvisational found-item remedies have gotten him out of many a jam, and if melded with the stealth, agile, disciplined strength of a ninja, he would be vulnerable only to Chuck Norris and God himself.
Now let’s say someone besides Ninja MacGyver were to exhibit these qualities. It would inspire an amalgam of awe, respect, and just a dash of fear in this amazing individual’s fellow man, right?
You’re darn tootin’.
Well, I am here to tell you that I have found such a person, and that I am he.
Allow me to explain.
We moved this past weekend, and while moving is never the greatest thing since Al Gore single-handedly invented the Internet, we’re thrilled with our new place. Sure, many of its major appliances were either nonexistent (washer and dryer) or broken (dishwasher and refrigerator) when we arrived, but we’ll get there. The important part–the reason we moved–is that we’re back in Phoenix. For financial reasons, we moved 30 minutes away from our family, friends, and civilization in general a year ago. The hour-long round trip essentially forced us to be more antisocial than we’d prefer, cramming multiple events, errands and visits into marathon weekends with the Twinfants and their feeding/changing/playing accessories in tow. While the constant commute wore on us, the Twins made it all worth it.
But now we’re back, and the country roads that took us home to a place we didn’t belong are fading from memory, as if all a bad dream.
However, the week before we achieved manifest destiny, I entrusted the Twinfants to the care of their Grandma and made trips to the new house to drop off fragile items (you know, ice sculptures, taxidermic animals, cinderblocks…) and make preparations to facilitate the influx of boxes we are still tripping over. One of these tasks was to acquire and program new garage door remotes since we were not left any by the previous occupants.
I’d done this before and selected my go-to universal remote, as it is one of few automated products with instructions that actually mean it when they say setup only takes five minutes. Behold the Chamberlain Clicker:
However, the five minutes it usually takes to sync this remote was thwarted by the bane of many consumers, the dreaded plastic packaging:
Upon seeing this, I thought, No problem. I’ll just go get the scissors… Oh. Sh!t.
It was at that moment I realized I had no scissors.
I had no knife.
All I had was the aforementioned fragile odds and ends we were too lazy to box.
I wasn’t about to drive 30 minutes back to our other house and 30 minutes back, and after spending three hours store-hopping for new house supplies, I really didn’t want to buy new ones, especially since we already own five.
My gut reaction was to channel my inner Larry David.
But after a deep, calming breath, I decided to survey the house and see what I had to work with. None of my keys were sharp enough, and too-thin picture-hanging nails left in the walls were also a bust. Even Christopher’s (our mounted sabre tooth tiger) fangs were too dull. I paced from room to room, about to give up.
Then, a heavenly beacon of light shone upon these:
I’ve stated previously that my wife and I are ninjas, but I’ve suspected your skepticism, O Loyal Reader. Maybe now you’ll believe me.
A smile slashed clear through my peeved demeanor. YES.
This life-changing moment immediately reminded me of a certain Bruce Willis scene in Pulp Fiction.
Figuring it would give me the most leverage (and since I have nothing to prove phallically) I selected the shortest blade.
I strategically positioned it.
Then, remembering my internship with Pai Mei, I harnessed my chi and lashed forward in one powerful, lighnting-quick motion.
The impenetrable seal had been vanquished. The heavens sang.
Out of respect for my adversary, I switched to more civilized hand-to-hand combat to finish it off.
Having watched his brother fall to a gruesome demise, the package for the second remote was already waving a white flag as I scissor-kicked towards it. No contest.
The battle won, I flaunted my bounty in an elaborate procession to the garage, where I found the garage door opener sealed shut with Phillips head screws.
And I had no screwdriver.
I eyed the sword for a moment. Maybe if I… No. Bad idea.
Sighing in defeat, I backflipped into the house and started looking for a Phillips head.
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If not, you probably shouldn’t say it out loud. I may hear you.
The Quest for Redemption
By the Friday of every week I am completely exhausted. After wrangling the Twins, beating the snot out of my house-husbanding chores, and writing this fine publication (which many have recently remarked that they cannot believe I have time for), I am spent. So spent that my during-the-rest-of-the-week 2:00 pm crash usually hits at 11:30 am, while lying on the floor with my progeny in the middle of Tummy/Rolling All Over the Place Time, as I nod off mid-pseudo-engaging-baby-critical-thinking-question-about-the-toys-they-are-marvelling-at. (“What color is that ball? What shape is that ba–Zzzzzz…Ow! Did you just punch me in the nose? … What color is my nose?”)
With that in mind, I usually set few, very small goals for Fridays.
Take last Friday for example. It was the end of my busiest week in a while. In addition to my regular duties (huh-huh, I said duties), I’ve been doing some contracted tech work as well as boxing belongings and seeking out new residences for the Pseudonymous family since we have recently decided to move.
And so, as I resuscitated myself with my super-charged Friday morning coffee, I decided to aim low. Aside from the givens (twin care, dishwashing, ninjutsu training), my primary objective was to browse the iTunes store for music and determine what I would purchase with the $15 gift card my wife got me over a month ago for Father’s Day. (Would you believe I haven’t had time?) I’ve had it sitting out on the counter as a reminder ever since receiving it from my wonderful wife, and have caught taunting glimpses of it while making bottles, folding laundry, and soothing meltdowns.
With months of trophy husbanding experience under my belt, I believed this iTunes iTask to finally be within my iGrasp. Even if the kids were particularly grumpy, I could line up my sonic candidates like reality show contestants waiting for the red rose of approval, hit play, and discriminatingly consume. In fact, the Twinfants would most certainly enjoy the ever-changing sensory stimulation generated by the constant toggling of song clips.
No problem, right?
Well, of course not. Why would I write about that? It failed miserably.
The primary reason the plan disintegrated like a drool-drenched Graduates Puff was that we had absolutely no Nap Overlap. Those of you who are Loyal Readers know this means my children were never asleep at the same time. In fact, for the entire day, they were on completely opposite sleep schedules. As soon as I delivered one to Sleepy Town, the other was just waking up. All. Freaking. Day.
Now, I will admit this situation has its advantages, for instance facilitating quality one-on-one time with each of the twins individually, which is something all the books about twins that I don’t have time to read seem to say is important. On the other tiny hand, such a rhythm does not facilitate Daddy getting a freaking second to himself. Not to go to the bathroom, not to eat (unless I combine them), not even to accomplish tedious tasks like defunkifying dishes, laundering laundry, and listening to smooth on-hold jazz while waiting to haggle with customer service representatives.
Plus, at almost seven months old, the Twinfants are teething and especially irritable. As a matter of fact, amidst Frankenstein-monster moans akin to dueling banjos, transparent vampire-fang drool trickles flowing from each mouth corner, angry head-butts to Daddy’s sternum, and the frantic gnawing of foam books, plush pandas, and human fingers, we have sprouted the First Two Teeth of Pseudonymous: The Next Generation, with our son’s inaugural chomper emerging on Thursday evening and our daughter’s fashionably late pearly white fanfaring into view Saturday morning.
Guess which day was right in the middle? That’s right. Friday, the day iFailed.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. Although both kids had their share of I-need-you-to-hold-me-right-now-Daddy-or-I-will-shatter-every-window-with-my-squeals moments, there were also a few peppered throughout the day when they seemed content, or, as Snoop Dogg wouldn’t say: “Rollin’ down the floor, sucking teething rings, sippin’ on baby formula, laid back, with their minds on their (stuffed) monkeys and their monkeys on their minds.”
Then, I got greedy.
On at least three occasions, I thought, Okay, they seem pretty chill. I could maybe squeeze in a song sample or twenty. I even lowered my laptop’s volume and strategically placed it in accessible but out-of-baby-sight locations, as I have learned they do NOT like to compete with Skynet for my attention. On my final Hail Mary attempt, I even tried earbuds. However, every listening session ended abruptly, about five seconds into the first clip, as they noticed I was not staring at them, hanging on their every gesture, the only proper response for which, of course, is a tantrum. This did not make for an optimal music previewing atmosphere.
I’ll admit I missed an opportunity around 2 pm, just after bottle-guzzling. They were happily cooing at their playthings on the floor, and I home-run trotted to my computer. This is it! I thought. It’s all happening! I chose an album (The Features’ Wilderness) clicked “play all samples,” and rejoined the munchkins on the floor. As they chattered and smiled at me occasionally, I laid on my back and stared at the ceiling fan, listening to my prospective new jams. Which made me think of seeing the band live when they came to Phoenix a few years ago. It was just my wife and me then. Simpler times. Not “better” times by any means, but definitely simpler. And I remembered the electrifying onstage energy the band had, and the badass hollow-bodied guitar their frontman rocked. Which made me think about how Pseudonymous hasn’t “Gone Electric” in a while. I’ve been folking out with the Twins acoustically, but haven’t “plugged in” for months. I should do that. Do I need new strings?
Before I knew it, the song previews had ended 15 minutes ago and I had still only paid attention to the first five seconds of the first song.
Now, before you decide that this poor, frustrated soul is clearly on his last nerve and take it upon yourself to send in your magical parenting guru suggestions about what I should have done in order to achieve my iGoal even though you: 1) weren’t here, 2) weren’t as tired as I was, and 3) have never met my children and thus don’t know what works (and what doesn’t) with them, I want to emphasize that in the scheme of things, I don’t care about the stupid iTunes card. (I also already tried your suggestion anyway since eating Wheaties daily makes me a Champion by definition.)
The more I pushed to “git-r-done,” the more I realized that purchasing music was just not in the cards for me that day. (Haha, get it?) Even more importantly, every day I could focus on achieving little tasks like buying music, getting every last dish washed, or writing yet another genius blog post–and in doing so, continually exasperate myself because the Twins usually need me more than I anticipate. Or, instead, I could remind myself what a privilege staying home to raise them is. Even though I spend more time with them than anyone else, it still feels like they’re growing up so quickly. I know although my wife enjoys her job, it doesn’t hold a candle to seeing them all day on weekends, and remember when I first returned to work from paternity leave, I felt like I was missing out all day.
Every moment I have with them is an opportunity for me to savor the awe-inspiring experience that is parenthood and, in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
There will be plenty of time for me to buy my stupid music in the future, and yes, over the weekend, I was finally able to redeem the gift card one night once the kids went to sleep. As it turned out, it was an even better Fathers’ Day present than it first appeared to be.
It reminded me how lucky I am to be a Dad.
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If not, maybe you just need a day off. It worked for Cameron.
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.