ONE YEAR AGO…
I awoke to a pixie whisper in my ear. “Daddy!” my daughter hissed. “I fink da Easter Bunny came!”
“He did?” I yawned. “Well, I guess we’d better go wake up your brother and see what he left you. Do you want to?”
“Yes!” she hissed. “Yes, Daddy! I do!”
“Shh!” On the other side of the bed, my wife did a half-kick as she insisted, “Wait. I need five minutes. My stomach’s killing me.”
I plodded alongside my skipping daughter across our one-story rental house’s living room (past the two baskets expertly hidden by the Easter Bunny) and into my son’s room to begin the twenty-minute process of waking him from a sound sleep.
Aside from it being Easter Morning, 2014, this was pretty much business as usual–my daughter being the first one awake, my wife wanting “five more minutes,” and my son seconding his mother’s sentiments by demanding the remainder of the day to sleep, as he had already “telled me firty-seven times” to “stop talking to me. I don’t want to do nuffing!”
Sure, my world was pretty nuts, but things were also looking up. With the Twins in a school we’d grown quite fond of and my doctoral coursework in the bag, I had just taken a job I was fairly happy with–one requiring me to wear a tie and commute 45 minutes to downtown Phoenix. While I was not particularly a fan of the obscene amount of time I was spending ironing, attempting to color-coordinate shirt-tie-pants-socks-shoes combos, and coming to a complete stop on the freeway, I was very much a fan of the sudden influx of real, actual grown-ass man income I was earning after slumming it as a student worker for years.
This was also about the point when I had about 30 pages of my dissertation written, and was just starting to kick my own ass every frickin’ night once the Twins went to bed with ice-cream-and-beer-fueled “THIS!IS!SPARTA!” thesis-writing binges usually lasting until about two in the morning. Although the topic of my wife and me having more kids would occasionally come up from time to time, it was primarily as a ridiculously funny joke, as several medical professionals had deemed our reproductive organs to be barren wastelands of fossilized sperm with no tails and one of those egg cartons everyone leaves on the grocery store shelf because it got dropped by that guy who wasn’t paying attention while he was checking the expiration date because he was obnoxiously talking on his cell phone about his entire life story for everyone in the store to hear. These, of course, are highly technical medical terms.
“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?”
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.
I grimaced as the all-too-familiar sound of my daughter’s signature baby cuss-fests reverberated throughout the cabin of our 757. Her inflection was remarkably similar to a Ricky Ricardo Spanish flipout as she rattled off unintelligible rapid-fire syllables.
Typically, these soliloquies have me in stitches. The invariable final “BAH” and its emphatic arm thrust just kills me every time.
But here and now, all I could muster was a nervous smile at my wife across the aisle, who flashed a quick one back while wrestling our tiny squirming diva in her lap.
Since two lap kids aren’t allowed in the same three-seat half-row, my wife had elected to fly solo while my son and I sat on the other side with my parents. The plan was to take turns and rotate seats as necessary throughout the flight, but for now, with the “fasten seat belts” sign lit and the crew preparing for take-off, we were locked into this configuration. We had booked the flight to coincide with their naptime in hopes they would crash for a significant portion of it, but the TSA security shuffle and unfamiliar surroundings now had them simultaneously wired and tired. And grumpy as hell.
When the Twins were first born, a family friend who is a mother of three now-grown children once told me, “Now that you’re a parent of two, people are going to offer you help. A word of advice: let them.” Of course, the context for this was her generosity and my insisting it wasn’t necessary, but a lot has happened since then, and roughly a year later, I’m so on board. I don’t even glance at the mouths of gift horses.
I have no problem with strangers holding the door for me so I can shimmy the just-barely-narrow-enough double stroller through it. I willingly accept offers to cut ahead of one-item purchasers at grocery checkout in the event of Twin tantrums due to not letting them hold every single pack of gum on the register’s candy shelf. I truly appreciate the Babies “R” Us cashiers who are more than willing to accept a returned product even though it’s been opened and I don’t have the damned receipt because my son literally ate it–especially when this explanation is peppered with “Buddy, don’t poke that rattlesnake” and “Sweetie, where did you find that flame thrower? That’s dirty. Give it to Daddy.”
Thus, when my parents offered to take the Twins, my wife and me to Maui with them on vacation, I blurted “We accept!” and scrambled my wife and kids out to the car, gunning it down the road before my parents could change their minds or say they were joking.
I am thrilled, O Loyal Reader, to announce that the following Twincident was actually not written by me, but instead an Über-Special Guest Author. You’ve heard her thoughts on having more children, hydration and colored clutter. You’ve seen her catch vomit with her mouth, stick her chin in poo, and even put up with her husband’s suggestive innuendos while deathly ill. Now, for the first time, the floor is hers. Please welcome my wife, Bernie Pseudonymous!
(Yes, that’s right, her name is Bernie. Please withhold your Weekend at Bernie’s jokes. You may think you’re being original, but we’ve heard them all and none of them are funny. Not even yours.)
This story starts like most other stories in my life lately. “My husband and I were feeling a little adventurous, so…” we decided that a weekend getaway to San Diego (5 hours by car) was totally doable and should be in our immediate future. The main motivation behind this quest was a five-generation picture that I wanted to get with our five-and-a-half-month-old twins and their great-great grandmother who was able to come down to San Diego with my grandmother so we could capture this rare twincident (if you will) on film. Plus, getting out of the 100-plus Arizona heat sounded very appealing and I wanted to prove to myself that it COULD be done. We knew that the twins could handle this adventure if we planned it right.
So we started preparing about three weeks prior to the Fourth of July weekend, talking to friends and scouring these internets for twinfant travel tips. The plan was to leave after we fed the twins dinner and a bottle hoping the baby food coma would keep the kids asleep the whole way. To me this seemed like a solid plan but the actual car ride, not so solid.
Pretty much every night our daughter falls asleep after dinner and stays asleep for the night. She can’t take a nap worth a damn, but at night she recoups. Our son is a little different. He goes down for naps relatively easy all day but also wakes up relatively easy and usually to the sound of our dog alerting us a car has gone by or some other annoying sound like thunder. So this applies to our car adventure because he was unable to fall asleep right away and the loud swooshing of wind flying by the car kept him awake. And unhappy. He cried for about 45 minutes, but then fell asleep until we reached a halfway mark where I could change him as the sky finally darkened, allowing his brain to recognize that sleep was in fact a good idea. (He did this on the way home, too but that time our daughter woke up, so Mom ninja-ed her way into the back seat and performed Mommy Sleep Magic on them both. Not ideal, but not terrible either.)
We arrived in San Diego at 10:30 pm at which point I had to wait 20 minutes for my sleeping mother (who goes by “Nani” instead of “Grandma”) to come down to the lobby to tell us where our room was. As an added bonus, my 14-year-old brother had fallen asleep in our room (why he was in there in the first place…?) and Nani needed to get an extra key from the front desk to open it. All this commotion woke the bambinos up and UP they were for the next two hours. Once everyone settled we all slept until 5 am, but thankfully we handed the kids off to Nani at 6:30 after they ate and Mom and Dad got to sleep until 9. It was our first time sleeping that late in months, and It. Was. Awesome.
Most of our trip was spent swapping babies between my husband, Nani, my sister, brother and me so naps could be achieved and meals could be eaten. It was not a bad system. Later that afternoon I was so excited to take my kids on a non-100-plus-degree walk that I just threw them in the stroller and we left not knowing we’d be taking a three-mile walk and not putting sunscreen on. Needless to say, the adults got burnt but the kids were unscathed and loved the walk. We performed some voodoo on the kids upon our return and got everyone to take a nap, refreshing us all.
After our nap we decided we needed to take the five-generation photos, as postponement might result in whiny twin/great-great-grandma syndrome. I can happily report that said photos turned out perfectly and I am so thrilled to be able to share these with my kids. After the pictures we ate dinner on the patio and had drinks with the whole family, great and great-great grandma included. Some fond memories were created. The kids’ great-great grandma is sharp. She was telling jokes and totally chatting us up. Definitely worth the 45 minutes of crying…both ways.
The next day came too quickly and we were off that night to return home. This was a trial vacation but I know the kids can handle longer and I can’t wait for the next time. In the end, the trip was quite a success.
Here are a few things Mom learned along the way:
- Both my parents and my husband’s parents gave us crap for the three suitcases, two travel co-pods, stroller, two diaper bags, backpack, fleet of bottles, high chairs covers and portable bath tub that we packed BUT there was only one item we didn’t use—a portable jumper—and that’s only because the door frame wouldn’t allow it.
- In a choice between a car with space and a car that is super quiet, the quiet one wins. My poor son scared himself too many times in the loud sport utility vehicle we swapped with Nani to take to San Diego, but luckily we swapped cars back and drove our own, much quieter four-door sedan home.
- Rest areas, hotels, and some fast food joints do not have diaper-changing stations in their bathrooms. They will pay someday. I don’t know how, but they will pay.
- Our car stereo has a fade option allowing us to turn down the speakers next to the kids. Had no idea. My husband thought I was crazy for not knowing this information. Guess I’ve never had to fade the sound to the front so my kids won’t wake up before.
- The second you get in the car for a long ride, your twins will poop. Mine did both ways.
- The white noise Sound Machines (that my husband believes are from Miami) are lifesavers when staying in a hotel. The constant slamming of doors is less annoying if not projected through hallways full of paper-thin walls.
- A family trip with five-month-old twins and an 88-year-old great-great grandma is actually a good idea since they are on the same nap and nighttime schedule.
- Food at a hotel is WAY too expensive, but it’s the closest spot to get some food in your belly that doesn’t require the Twin Car Shuffle, so it will do.
- Going on vacation with my husband, my mom, my grandma, my sister and brother was genius. There was always someone to help with the kids. I believe all vacations with my kids should require other family members.
- Caffeine is such a great friend. It never lets you down when you need it most. Even if you have to dump 10 packs of sugar in it to be drinkable.
- Stroller naps are just fine. So are naps anywhere else.
- My daughter is a great traveler. My son’s not.
- Mommy can and did squeeze her tush between the car seats in the backseat of our four-door sedan. When two kids are screaming like wild banshees, it can be done.
- Twins are a novelty in California as well as Arizona, as are idiots who believe they are entitled to touching our twins even though they are complete strangers.
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If not, I’ll turn this car right around and go back home. Is that what you want?