I know how it must have looked to the underwhelmed outdoor mall kiosk vendors.
A boisterous early-thirties couple with excellently-defined tan lines bumbling their way through the establishment with heavy footfalls, giggling uncontrollably and carrying the faint scent of island rum.
Oh, fantastic, they observed. More drunk tourists.
I knew this because even in my heightened state of awesomeness, my keen ninja senses saw them willing themselves not to roll their eyes, especially when we slurred the following greeting to an unsuspecting swimwear clerk:
“I’m a mother of twins. I don’t want to look sexy anymore. I want to cover my butt. What do you have for that?”
“She just wants a sarong. Is that so wrong?”
Come on, bikini merchant, crack a smile. Can’t you see that we’re hilarious?
Besides, we don’t get out much, and if you walked a mile in our flip flops, you’d be lit up and hilarious tonight, too.
“Stupid rental car,” my wife growled.
“Huh?” I bumbled, snapping out of an exhausted daze. “I thought we liked the rental car.”
Having ventured to Maui with my parents, we’d rented a minivan that would comfortably fit the six of us and our fleet of Traveling Toddler Circus props. Even with the two extra adults there was still plenty of room. Compared to the 4-door sedan we usually cart the kids around in and into which certain strollers only fit one way (when inserted with ninja precision), it was a veritable vehicular vacation on top of our location vacation. In fact, it had inspired us to seek out a van of our own once we returned to Phoenix. Or so I thought as my wife suddenly slandered our steed’s good name.
“We do like it, except for this stupid speedometer. I have no idea how fast I’m going.”
Straightening up on the passenger side, I leaned towards my wife at the wheel to survey the dash. The numbers and gauges shone brightly up at us as we traversed the dark, sans-streetlight coastal road. On this particular night my parents were out on a date and my wife and I were headed back to the hotel with our passed-out munchkins. When it’s just the four of us, my wife usually opts to drive due to her propensity for motion sickness and a particularly vocal flair for back-seat driving. While many of my male peers might see this as gender-role sacrilege, I assure you, this is the optimal driving arrangement.
Examining the dashboard, I saw exactly what my wife was talking about. A digital gauge displayed her speed in kilometers per hour rather than miles per hour.
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.
This is Part 2 of the sprawling, epic adventure of Coyote Fugly, in which Our Hero wages war against a coyote ravaging his neighborhood. You can experience the thrill of Part 1 here.
. . .
Those who live in Arizona will attest to the commonality of suburban coyotes. These bloodthirsty mange-bags live in desert mountains adjacent to housing developments and often venture onto residential streets looking for unsuspecting stray dogs and cats to harvest loudly and painfully. In fact, the day we moved in, one of our neighbors who’d seen our dog warned us that she’d heard a neighborhood cat being mauled by a coyote just the night before.
And as I looked my canine adversary in the ass, I remembered this fact.
. . .
It was a desert-dirt tan, ears pricked straight up, tail flopping as it bounded down the sidewalk.
As soon as I saw this predatory perp, I sighed in relief. We were not in any uber-immediate danger–it was about a half-block away, headed in the opposite direction, hopping over landscape rocks and weaving around garbage cans. (He must hate Trash Day, too.)
Still understandably flustered, I turned back to the Woman Who Cried Wolf and awkwardly replied, “Thank you, citizen!”
Although I wasn’t staring Vile E. Coyote in the face, I still decided this was a still a pretty good cue that it was time to get the frick back home. Yanking my dog’s leash, I sped up, leaving the now-stopped apparent vigilante coyote hunter at the curb. Looking both ways, I turned to jaywalk to the other side of the street. No cars. Awesome.
But then there was a car. Headed straight for us.
My dog froze, again tangling the leash in the stroller, immobilizing it.
I was already mourning the morning walk.
Before we’d even traveled a block my dog had decided to lead the caravan, walking directly in front of the jogging stroller, her hindquarters mere inches from the front wheel. I don’t know why she insists upon this walking arrangement–maybe she likes to think she’s in charge–but(t) it never “ends” well for her, typically culminating in me literally running her ass over. It begins when she looks back at the stroller and decides she is terrified of it, so terrified that she freezes in place, causing the usually-taut leash to slack and wrap around the stroller’s back axle, putting us at a dead stop just after the tire bumps her square on the cheeks. I do my best to stop before the butt-bump, but she forces me to tailgate her at an unsafe following distance.
On this particular day, she had jumped to deer-in-headlights mode so abruptly and forcibly that it had pulled her harness clean off. (We attach the leash to her harness and not her collar because after years of scientific research, we have determined she would rather be choked to death than respond to leash tugs.) And because my dog just barely qualifies as obedient, I knew I had to act quickly on this leashless freedom unless I wanted to choose between:
1) chasing her around the neighborhood, loudly cussing her out while she thinks its a game, waking the Twins from their stroller catnaps and yielding a sterophonic meltdown; or
2) tritely employing the if-you-love-her-set-her-free-and-if-she-never-returns-she-was-never-yours axiom, which would most likely mean never seeing my beloved canine again, as she would surely make a grand exit from this life in Harry Houdini fashion while performing her famous freezing-in-front-of-an-oncoming vehicle trick.
It was in that moment that I remembered I am a ninja, as my keen, subconscious reflexes sprang into action, one-handedly snagging her by the tail, keeping the other hand firmly planted on the stroller.
She turned her head towards me, dumbly panting with glee, as if to say. “That was fun, Dad!”
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.