I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. After a particularly long morning, the Twins’ 3rd Birthday Party was finally in full swing. Food was served, Piglet and Pluto cupcake towers were constructed, and while kids of all ages darted across the house hopped up on sugar, our adult friends and family tossed back a mimosa or two, occasionally craning their necks to check on their offspring.
Yep, it looked like we just might pull this thing off after all.
It figures that on a day meant to be all about them, my son and daughter decided to make the entire morning all about them with constant, unnecessarily melodramatic whining, thus hindering the actual preparation for their party. The plan had been for me to head to the grocery store for a few last-minute food items while my wife stayed home to get things ready, with help from her sister who had graciously volunteered her mad cupcaking skillz. My wife–an überplanner–had dutifully procured party game supplies to be assembled, festive popcorn boxes to be filled with Orville Redenbacher-y goodness, and goodie bags to be distributed to the under-ten crowd. However, as I witnessed the Twins’ heart-wrenching, Oscar-worthy disapproval of changing from their pajamas to their party clothes just before I left, I had a feeling my wife’s überplans had become an endangered species. Sure enough, the moment I re-entered the house with groceries in tow (30 minutes from Go Time), I was met with a frantic Honey-Do-all-of-this-before-I-Hulk-Smash-somebody’s-face List. Despite my deft popcorn-box filling and spirited backyard dog-poo extraction, our guests began to arrive way before we were able to accomplish Operation: Meet The Wife’s Unrealistic Pinterest-Fueled Expectations.
I looked up from the kitchen island to check on the Dynamic Duo. My son sat enthralled on the floor, accenting his finger-pointing at the television screen with “Oohs” and “Aahs,” while my daughter reclined on the couch, wrapped in a blanket and cradling her stuffed Piglet.
Lately they’ve become completely obsessed with ocean life: ocean puzzles, ocean books, cheap-ass toy fishing poles with magnetic fish to “catch,” and anything involving Finding Nemo or The Little Mermaid. On this particular morning they’d begged me to put on one of their new favorite DVDs–the “Shallow Seas” episode of the Planet Earth series, which is now known in our house simply as “The Fishies.”
While they were caught up in the sheer awesomeness that is “The Fishies,” I had seized the opportunity to crack open my laptop and attend to PhD shenanigans.
Two brand new sets of lunch bags and Thermoses (Thermi?) on the far counter caught my eye as I penned a particularly riveting email. We recently registered the Twins to start “school” in July and my wife–ever the planner–has ALREADY secured rad new Hello Kitty and Spider-Man lunchtime gear in anticipation. No, this isn’t the parent-child class I’ve previously mentioned. Our children will soon be attending a new “big-kid” all-day school program a few days a week–one they’ll be attending without Daddy waiting in the wings (which works out well because Daddy’s about to start on his dissertation).
We’re also mere days from launching PottyTrainingFest 2013, an event we know the Twins are ready for, as my daughter now literally approaches me with a clean diaper in hand, saying, “Daddy, I pee-peed.” (Why couldn’t THAT have caught on sooner?) Although their new school helps with potty training and even does diapers, the idea is for us to do the bulk of the work at the Pseudonymous World Headquarters and send them out into the field with a License to Potty.
Sprawled out on my back amidst the Duplos, Thomas train tracks, and Fisher Price Little People that frequent the playroom floor, my daughter snaps me out of a momentary spaceout.
Grunting, I sit up groggily to field her request. Although my wife had worked from home today, it hadn’t been any less exhausting keeping the kids occupied and quiet while she ran in and out of the room with her cell phone and laptop, straining to hear her conference calls over squawks and shrieks for juice and raisins. On this particular night, my wife had a work dinner event to attend, leaving me in charge of the day’s Closing Ceremonies with the Dynamic Duo.
“What’s up, Baby Girl?” I ask my daughter.
The pigtails she’d dismantled the moment Mommy left poked frizzily from either side of her head, totally undermining her deadly serious demeanor. “Snowman,” she insists. “All gone.”
“That’s right, Baby,” I chuckle. “The snowman’s all gone. But he’ll be back on Christmas Day.” One of our Christmas decorations is a snowman that hangs from the front doorknob. She’d taken note of it during the holiday season and every day since we’ve taken it down, she’s reminded us that it’s missing–even now, almost two months after Christmas.
And every time she does this, she blows my mind.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we recently celebrated the Twins’ Second Birthday, and ever since the 1st of the year, the Twins have been making cognitive leaps and bounds daily. It’s as if their neurons have all finally joined Facebook and are friending each other. Their abilities to imagine, remember, reason, and verbalize have kicked into overdrive.
My daughter breaks into a beaming, jack-o’-lantern smile and giggles, “Snowman all gone,” thrilled that Daddy has confirmed what she already knew was right.
Noticing the clock, I rise to my feet and bellow, “Okay, kids! Bath time!” Continue reading
“Should we do it?”
“I don’t know–they could really like it, but they also could really hate it.”
“Yeah, I know. But how often are we here?”
“Exactly. If we don’t go now, we might not get to at all.”
We were so close. The timing was almost perfect. Sure, it could end horribly, with double toddler tantrum a cappella until it was over, but that line of thinking would imply that any new experience with the Twins has such potential. Pessimistically speaking, the whole trip was a risk, but we’d gotten this far without a hitch, and now, in The Happiest Place on Earth, the optimism was running high. And there was just no way we were going to leave Disneyland without going on The Pirates of the Caribbean.
You see, to us, this wasn’t just a ride. It was a pilgrimage of sorts, a half-decade in the making.
One the earliest conversations my wife and I had when we first started dating in January 2007 involved divulging each of our Favorite Things Ever–you know, one of those late-night heart-to-heart sessions common to the super-duper thrill of a new relationship. I had learned early on about her incredible sense of smell–we’re talking vampire-caliber here (to this day she can literally detect a poop-filled diaper from the opposite side of the house). With that in mind, I eventually wound up asking her what her Absolute Favorite Smell was.
Without hesitation, she replied, “The smell in The Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.”
I was taken aback–I hadn’t expected something so specific. “Really? THAT’S your favorite smell?”
“Absolutely. It has this sweet, musty, kind of old side, but also this fresh, watery feel. And then there’s all the pirates and singing. It reminds me of simpler times, when I’d go to Disneyland with my family and being on Pirates was just the best thing ever. It just…The thought of it makes me happy.”
I then imagined myself riding it–the thrill of the pitch-black drop, the splashing cannons, the singing scalawags, the way the faux night sky looks so damn real…and that smell…
“Yeah, you know, now that I think about it, that is a pretty awesome smell.”
“I think I’ll take you there someday.”
We should have known better.
I don’t know why we expected our son to make it all day on an outing to Santa Monica Pier without a flip-out. With t-minus two days until our big trip to California, he had spiked a fever and started barking with croup, but we didn’t have any choice but to go with it. Bags were packed, hotels were booked, and my wife’s vacation days were locked in.
And so here we were at the Pier, fielding a high-decibel complaint from him as he refused to walk, be carried, or sit in the stroller. My wife and I took one look at each other and knew what needed to be done–get the f*ck out of there and get him a nap.
But first, we needed to calm him down so as to mobilize him.
As is customary, we looked for “Ruh-Ruh” (a toddler pronunciation of “Ruff-Ruff,” which is what our son calls his favorite toy, a stuffed Pluto). Surely, I thought, his go-to plush canine would again bring balance to The Force. But when I reached for its usual place in the diaper bag, I came up empty-handed. I dug through each pocket and checked the storage pouches on each umbrella stroller, but still no Ruff-Ruff.
“Hey,” I projected to our caravan of travelers, including my wife’s mother, stepfather, brother, sister, and grandmother. (We’d taken turns pushing the Twins’ strollers all day, so anyone could have had it.) “Where’s Pluto?”
My daughter hooked her arm securely around mine as I held her at my hip–a cripplingly cute mannerism of hers that melts me to my core every single time.
Vocalizing airplane sound effects, I made an extravagant production of swooping my giggling passenger down to the floor to pick up each member of the Hundred Acre Wood institutionalized as her Bedtime Crew, currently featuring Piglet (her go-to daytime stuffty) as well as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger (the night-shift support staff who allow for optimal snugglization).
Her teeth brushed and hands washed, she knew we were coming up on bedtime and began her nightly wind-down ritual: gripping Piglet and Company, sticking her beloved right thumb in her mouth, and embracing day’s end with open arms and heavy eyelids.
Our son, however–currently in his mother’s arms–was performing his own nightly routine: maniacal arm-flails punctuated by Oscar-worthy whines. Never ready to pack it in, he’ll dash for the playroom or point at the turned-off tv in a last-ditch effort to stay up just a little longer, to milk as much out of the day as possible. There are still so many blocks to stack, so many books to read, so many Sing-Along Songs to groove to.
And while his unrelenting desire to be awake can be burdensome, I don’t ever fault him for it.
He gets it from me.
I used to laugh at my mother.
It would begin with her getting on the phone with a customer service representative. (Keep in mind that this was back in Ye Good Olde Days before Al Gore singlehandedly invented the Internet, when instead of yelling at ambiguous, unhelpful websites or cussing at incompetent live-chat reps in all caps, the only game in town was to actually haggle with a real person about bills, warranties, and Hooked on Phonics.)
While my mother attempted to insult the intelligence of whatever dolt she was dealing with on the other line, some semblance of the following events would transpire.
My two younger sisters, who were a year apart and constant playmates, would be “Doing a Story,” their name for playing out an improvisational narrative with a star-studded cast of Barbies, My Little Ponies, and whichever Legos their brother failed to hide well enough. In choosing which playthings each of them would voice, the oldest of the two would always weasel her way into First Draft Pick.
“I’ll be Malibu Botox Barbie.”
“No! You got to be Malibu Botox Barbie last time we Did a Story!”
“But this is the sequel. I have to be Malibu Botox Barbie again or else we’ll tank at the box office. The fan base expects me, not some young, up-and-coming no-name. Here, you can be Especially Flamboyant Ken.”
“Girls!” my Mom would hiss. “I’m on the phone!”
Fully engrossed in their heated casting session, their battle would rage on without even acknowledging my mother.
“Then be Less-Exciting Sister With the Arm Missing Stacie!”
“Why can’t I be one of those 20 other Barbies?”
“Because I’m Barbie.”