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.
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!
Up to this point, I have only been in Phase 1 of my stay-at-home parenting stint. Sure, when the school year drew to a close at the end of May, I left the teaching job I beat the pants off for five years and have been home caring for the Twinfants since, but that was only the beginning.
This week my family and I enter Phase 2 of our Master Plan–or (since I already have my Master’s) more appropriately, our Doctoral Plan–as I return to the Ph. D. program I put on hold when the Twins were born in January.
Whenever I tell people I’m going to be both a stay-at-home dad and a full-time Ph. D. student, they usually either think I’m nuts or lying. I can understand that to mere mortals, both sound feasible. Regarding the former, when we first hatched The Plan from a badass-idea-shaped egg, I too thought it impossible, envisioning myself having bi-daily nervous breakdowns while attempting to study with two teething children in my lap, batting textbooks out of my hands like cartoon bullies. I have also been known to exaggerate or even slightly awesome-ify the truth in the name of witty entertainment (which I never do in writing this fine publication), so I also don’t blame those who do think I’m joking, as “crying ‘WOLF!'” one too many times with outrageous claims like inventing the question mark makes my family and friends reluctant to believe anything I tell them for the first time.
I can’t assure you I’m sane by insisting it because that is exactly what The Royal They argue that an insane person would do, and a similar stance is usually taken towards alleged liars.
However, I can explain how we plan on accomplishing this as a family and you, O Loyal Reader, can decide for yourself.
Based on the classes I still needed to take in my program, I enrolled–as much as I could–in ones held on the same days, so I only need to be on campus twice a week. Since my lovely wife works full-time, we needed care for the Twins during that time. Fortunately, we were able to enlist my mother, who has helped us a ton since the munchkins’ arrival. (She held down the fort earlier in the year when we returned to work from maternity/paternity leaves until I became voluntarily unemployed, and has also stepped up this summer on days I’ve needed to travel light while running errands.)
My wife and I have both been at-home parents during these first months, so, realizing the demands of twins, we recognize there is no way I can get ANY work done while watching them. It also wasn’t realistic for me to count on weekend studying–it’s our only real opportunity for whole-family time since as soon as my wife gets home from work on weekdays, we feed the kids dinner and start winding them down for bedtime at 7:30 pm.
So when the hell was I going to actually do my Ph. D. work?
After an intense Twinkle Think session, we hatched Yet Another Plan (that’s right–we have twin plans, too). My mother was already going to Twin-tackle during my classes anyway, so we asked if she could instead adore/endure them all day for the days I’m on campus so I could not only attend class, but also use the rest of the day to study my ass off, re-attach it, and then go home victorious.
So basically, the plan is for me to be on campus all day, two days a week, doing any and all Ph. D.-related activities. The remaining three weekdays, I will be home wrangling Twinfants like nobody’s bidness, just as I have done for the past few months, winning several major imaginary awards in the process, including Best Cinematographer of an Alleged, Unfilmed Picture and Best Baby-Monitor Sound Broadcast.
Since I haven’t actually put the plan into practice yet, I won’t claim it to be foolproof, but we think it’s a pretty good one. I realistically anticipate the added layer of stress taking on Ph. D. classes will bring, and I’m sure there are some rough days ahead. At the same time, I’m incredibly excited to further my education in subjects I thoroughly enjoy and afford myself opportunities I would never have otherwise, including the possibility to earn more than I did as a middle school teacher and provide for the new members of my family so they, too, can conquer college and get Ph. D.’s of their own so we can all obnoxiously call each other “Doctor” at dinner parties.
No matter how it ends, it all starts this week. Hold onto your Huggies, because here we go…
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If not, give me a break. I’m pretty freaking busy.