Won’t Stop Believin’
“Dammit,” I thought aloud, grimacing at my phone.
My wife turned her head. “What?”
“I’m 30 on the East Coast. The Facebook ‘Happy Birthdays’ just started.”
She smiled, putting a comforting hand on my shoulder. Having just kissed her own 20s goodbye in November, she’d (understandably) had moments of panic when her day drew near and had been bracing herself all week for a potential flip-out on my part. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m okay.” And I was. I really, really was. But still… “It’s just…It’s really happening, you know?”
“Oh, I do,” she emphasized, nodding wide-eyed. “Believe me.”
My straw sputtered as I downed the last of my drink and clomped the glass back on the table.
“Let’s get the birthday boy another one,” she grinned, rising from her chair. “Or should I say ‘old man‘?”
“Ha. Ha. Make it a double,” I snarked. I watched her as she zig-zagged through the throng of suits and dresses crowding the dance floor towards the bar.
Eating the System
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.
Naptime Musings – My 6 Most Common Thoughts
The moment I get both twins down for a nap is one of victory, invariably punctuated by a touchdown dance I’ve developed during my six-week career as starting Cry Receiver. It begins with the Running Man at a safe distance from 2nd (kid) Down, erupting into a Super Mario Brothers Fist-Raised Leap as I cross into the End Zone/Kitchen–during which I bump the ceiling, triggering a shower of Gilded Pacifiers–followed by the spike of a full baby bottle on the floor (empty ones don’t thud or bounce quite as badassly). I Raise the Roof with legs of Jell-O while willing myself not to White-Man’s-Overbite, and then, as I go into a little soft-shoe routine, die-hard face-painted fans, animal mascots, and cheerleaders emerge from drawers, cabinets, and Crock Pots, all remarkably donning the color of whatever spit-up-stained t-shirt I happen to be wearing. I sign the bottle with a Sharpie, fling it into the masses–who will argue for the ensuing two hours about who had it first–and launch myself into the Dawg Pound, crowd-surfing my way through high-fives.
Yeah, it’s a work in progress.
The “Holy Crap, a Nap Overlap!” Shuffle (working title) may seem a tad extravagant, but that’s because rarely does this occasion occur. Unlike many modern technologies, you cannot set twinfants to automatically synchronize. People often assume twins are uncannily in-tune. I definitely see yin and yang dynamics emerging, but my experience has shown that–as fraternal, boy/girl twins–they truly are two unique people, and with that comes unique sleep patterns. (I’ve heard identical twins tend more towards similar sleep habits but won’t at all claim to be an expert on that.)
It goes like this. My son, the Reigning Naptime Champion, usually conks right out, often even collapsing in his jumper or drifting off mid-teething-ring gnaw. My daughter, on the other hand, will show signs of tiredness, but will resist the falling asleep part at all costs. So after soothing, rocking, defiant de-socking, carrying, pacing, wide-awake goofy-facing, singing, swinging, pacifier flinging, and even laying her down to self-sooth until she’s so loud she’s about to wake her brother resulting in an fiery inferno of dual banshee shrieks, by the time I finally get her to sleep, I’ll often hear him waking from a 45-minute nap before I can even Mario Jump.
However, against these insurmountable odds, I usually manage to get them down at the same time once a day. This magical phenomenon, Daddy’s Time, allows me to do. Whatever. I. Want. It feels strangely similar to my parents letting me stay home alone while they ran errands, leaving my ecstatic mind reeling with unfathomable possibilities. Should I go through drawers? Blow out the stereo speakers? Snoop for Christmas presents?
So, once the crowd returns to their hiding places in appliances and cabinets, I am left alone with my thoughts, the most common of which are the following, in this order.
I first must harness the butterflies and giggling pink unicorns in my head and decide what I will do, because the clock is already ticking. A quick survey of the towering pile of dirty baby bottles, nipples and pacifiers in the sink, the full laundry hamper, and the labyrinth of play gyms on the floor reminds me that I simply must work on my next blog post because the idea is genius and will surely be the one to gain the attention of a publisher who will commission Twinfamy: The Book which will be optioned for Twinfamy: The Movie or possibly The HBO Series, which will in turn surely win a record-breaking amount of awards and acclaim, and I will be so wealthy that I can pay someone else to do the damn dishes, laundry, and tidying.
2. Oh, no! Don’t wake up yet!
Too often, I’ve begun The Shuffle prematurely. I’ll hear a youthful groan and an absolute hush falls across the stadium as we all spin towards the JumboTron to watch the baby monitor video feed. You could hear a grain of rice cereal drop as we await the child’s decision, willing him or her to drift back off.
Other times, I’ll be in the middle of something crucial, such as finally finishing the episode of Futurama I’ve been trying to watch during Daddy’s Time all week (since my wife dislikes cartoons, even stellar grown-up ones), or again, penning that all-important next post, but as I finally hog-tie a muse and the ideas come oinking out, I’ll hear a rustling. Oh, no, please God, just give me five more minutes…Or if you’re having a good day, twenty works for me, too…
It’s also at about this point in the day when my dog realizes she has the floor. “Hey! Wait a minute! Those little upstaging bastards are asleep! It’s my turn!” She’ll make a dog-beeline for the closet and return on a unicycle, juggling rawhide bones, and wearing a scrolling LED belt buckle that reads: “Come on, Dad! Let’s play fetch, and then you can rub my tummy, and then…” And so, once I see her enormous black eyes glimmer expectantly, I have about three seconds to stop her from whining, barking, or howling Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and waking the kids. Having given my poor, outshone-by-Twinfants canine some attention, I will then return to chores and/or Awesome Things. She’s usually fine with this until any sound whatsoever breaks the silence, prompting her to alert me via bark messaging that the air conditioning just clicked on, or the garbage truck has arrived, or that I have just closed the microwave, which brings me to…
4. How badly do I want to close this microwave?
Whether I’m finally nuking my first meal of the day or washing and steaming the aforementioned baby apparatus in our microwave sterilizer (neither of which I usually get around to until Nap Overlap), the microwave is a staple of Daddy’s Time. The problem, of course, it that it is impossible to close a microwave quietly. Don’t believe me? Go ahead, try. I’ll wait.
See? Told you. (My apologies if you’ve woken up napping children during Your Time.)
Even when I try to soften the blow with my fingertip as a silencer, I’m left with the same deafening bang and a sore finger. If this predicament were a movie trailer, it would go something like this:
In a world…
where silence MUST prevail…
on every slam.
Can YOU take the heat?
In theaters this Summer.
5. Did I brush my teeth today?
Now, before you get all grossed out, let me explain. I take morning coffee seriously, and carefully select blends I find to be delicious. However, the Tooth-Brushing/Coffee-Drinking Paradox dictates that brushing when I wake up causes the paste taste to linger and infiltrate my morning mug. I endured Minty Baking Soda Mochas for years via travel mug on my way to work, but can savor coffee with a clean palate now that I stay home.
The only caveat is the all-consuming nature of my “dayjob” sometimes causes me to forget to brush once the coffee’s done. All hail Daddy’s Time.
6. What did my wife tell me not to forget to do?
I knew it was something, and it must have been important, otherwise she wouldn’t have made a point to tell me. I think it had a “W” in it. I could ask her, but then she’ll know I forgot. Dammit.
Additonal Twinformation for New Parents
A 500-Disc DVD Special Edition Bonus Feature
My wife and I consider the microwave sterilizer I mentioned in Thought Number Four one of our best new-parent purchases. After a quick scrub and rinse in the sink, we throw them in this badboy, heat for 2 minutes, and play a Ring Toss/Horseshoes-style game to get them on the drying rack. I highly recommend this fine piece of equipment, especially over those disposable bags that burn the hell out of you every damn time and aren’t “effective” after X amount of uses.
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If not, that’s fine. Just please don’t wake up my kids.
Big Mother is Watching
“Okay, so it’s all set up. If you keep it plugged in, you can just leave it on. You don’t even need to touch it!” I winked in full infomercial swagger. As my school year winds down, my mother is wrangling the kids on days my wife and I are both working, so I was giving her a crash course on not touching the baby monitor so she would actually be able to use it all day.
“Just the way I like it,” she snickered. My mother’s technological savvy is just a cut above my four-month-old children’s, so she appreciates when I minimize her button-pushing obligations.
My daughter furrowed her brow and “Guh guh guh-ed” at Grandma through the nipple in her mouth, which translates to, “You shut your mouth while you’re feeding me.” She has a strict policy when eating: “No talking and no eye contact—I’m focusing.”
I have attempted to implement this same policy in a reciprocal manner. Whenever I’m seizing a precious free moment to shovel my entire meal stomachward in one gulp and she “interrupts” me, I’ll point an accusatory finger and throw that “Guh guh guh” right back in her face, but it’s an exercise in futility akin to expecting quality from a Kate Hudson movie. I’ve even tried to sit her down and explain to her that she’s holding me to a double standard, but then she’ll do the thing where she smiles so widely and intensely that her tongue trembles, and her damp, elated eyes literally sparkle. So, as the cuteness melts my face off, the only thing I can say to that is, “I’ll get you next time, Gadget! Next time!”
Making sure my son was secure in his jumper, I took a step towards my bedroom, still dazed from his 4 a.m. wake-up call. (“Hey, Dad! Watch this! See this thing on my foot? If I pull it, it comes off! You gotta try this! Oh…were you asleep?”) I then realized I should see if my mom needed anything before I passed the munchkin baton, especially because I now realize she endured this madness for me when I was one of them.
“Are you good? I was gonna shower.”
The proud grandma cradled my daughter, whose unrelenting cuteness had begun to melt her face off as well. “I’m more than good.”
“How are you feeling?” I asked my wife, who was getting ready for work. She hasn’t been feeling so hot this week, due to a debilitating cold. It’s the first time either of us has fallen ill since the Twins’ Earthen premiere, and it’s been daunting running on fewer cylinders than usual with the added two miniature, dependent cylinders.
“Alright, I guess,” she replied. “I don’t feel any worse than yesterday but I don’t feel any better either.”
It is a national day of mourning when she’s sick. I’ve always felt it’s better me than her. As a victim of terrible allergies for my entire life, I was a sickly child, always carrying tissues in one pocket and cough drops in the other, while my bastard friends always had room for cool things, like Swiss Army Knives and G.I. Joes. Don’t get me wrong—I despise being sick as much as anyone—I’ve just gotten used to it. My wife, not so much.
Plus, because she is the organized one—I like to think of myself as the “idea” guy—when she is sick, bills are neglected, appointments are forgotten, and basically any planning ahead whatsoever does not happen because I find thrilling new ways to drop the ball when I sub in. On the other hand, if I’m sick, the most devastating tragedy is usually that our iPods are not perfectly synced with our iTunes libraries.
But I am an excellent caregiver. As a soon-to-be-former middle school teacher, filthy tweens have blessed me with nearly every illness there is to have over the years, aside from the ones you need a vagina for. This—paired with the fact that my mother is a pharmacist—has yielded a fine assortment of remedies for every occasion. One that I swear by is hot tea, especially when you unload about a half-bottle of honey into it. (According to the leading e-mail forwards, honey has transformative healing powers and is said to be the best remedy for sore throats, unrelenting coughs, and even the occasional Saturday Night Fever.)
I’ve made tea for my wife every night this week. This is because I am the world’s greatest husband.
So on that fateful morning, upon hearing that my wife was still not feeling well, I inquired, “Do you have teabags at work?”
“Yeah,” she sighed, frustrated. She had that defeated look in her eyes that you see in uncoordinated people trying to play Guitar Hero. Something needed to be done to lift her spirits. Something epic. And as I was undressing to get in the shower, I decided to be hilarious.
“Would it make you feel better if I teabagged you right now?” For those who are unfamiliar with the act of teabagging, go ahead and Google it, and I’m sure you’ll find your answer. It involves likening a certain region of the male anatomy to a “teabag” while “steeping” it in a certain cavity of another consenting adult—in my case, a smokin’ hot female.
She finished blowing her nose and just stared at me. “Are you kidding?”
Well, of course I was kidding. As you remember, I was being hilarious. But that’s not to say I would have been upset if she had been up for it, either.
“You’re smiling on the inside,” I quipped. Then I got one on the outside. Boo-yah. My mission accomplished, I jumped in the shower.
Stop picturing me naked.
Just a few minutes later, my wife came creeping back in. As she peeked into the shower, I wondered if my beverage-innuendo-driven proposal had been accepted. Then I noticed an odd look on her face.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Um… Your mom…” She was whispering. “You know the monitor over there?” She pointed at one of the cribs in our room.
“You forgot to turn it off. I think she heard…about the teabagging.”
“Oh sh*t! Really?”
“Wait, do you think she even knows what it means?”
“I don’t know!” She hissed. “Do you want me to ask her?”
“Of course not!”
Several days later, the topic has not been breached. We’re okay with that.