Not a whole lot has gone right in the Pseudonymous Household this week. In fact, the most prominent scientists in the field have estimated the past few days to have kicked my hindquarters more forcibly than a ninja grizzly bear/man hybrid shuts a vehicular door.
Be not afraid, O Loyal Reader. Nothing serious has transpired–it just seems a devious conglomerate of small, annoying occurrences has established an Axis of Evil bent on thwarting our usually positive outlook. Everyone has bad weeks now and then, and apparently our number has been called at the Deli of Life, serving us an open can of Whoop-Ass (an alleged derivative of Spam) instead of the grocery-store-club-card-discounted honey-roasted turkey we asked for. Don’t you just hate that?
Such a week would usually be excellent fodder for this fine publication, but it’s been so hectic that I don’t even have the time to sufficiently thrill you with a proper Twincident.
However, I do have the time to play you a thematically-relevant song on a baby toy.
Here, in Twinfamy’s first-ever musical performance, is Yours Truly rocking the seminal opening riff of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”…on a Baby Einstein Count and Compose Piano.
Forgive me for not working out the whole song. I only have five notes in my arsenal with this particular instrument.
. . .
Fortunately, the week is almost over. I have no doubt that the smoke will soon clear, and the elusive Satisfaction will be re-gotten. In the meantime, the Twinfants and I will be here in the playroom, dancing our cares away, just like they used to do down at Fraggle Rock.
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If not, perhaps you should take our dancing-away-of-cares invitation more seriously.
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.
If MacGyver were a ninja, he’d be unstoppable. His unmatched improvisational found-item remedies have gotten him out of many a jam, and if melded with the stealth, agile, disciplined strength of a ninja, he would be vulnerable only to Chuck Norris and God himself.
Now let’s say someone besides Ninja MacGyver were to exhibit these qualities. It would inspire an amalgam of awe, respect, and just a dash of fear in this amazing individual’s fellow man, right?
You’re darn tootin’.
Well, I am here to tell you that I have found such a person, and that I am he.
Allow me to explain.
We moved this past weekend, and while moving is never the greatest thing since Al Gore single-handedly invented the Internet, we’re thrilled with our new place. Sure, many of its major appliances were either nonexistent (washer and dryer) or broken (dishwasher and refrigerator) when we arrived, but we’ll get there. The important part–the reason we moved–is that we’re back in Phoenix. For financial reasons, we moved 30 minutes away from our family, friends, and civilization in general a year ago. The hour-long round trip essentially forced us to be more antisocial than we’d prefer, cramming multiple events, errands and visits into marathon weekends with the Twinfants and their feeding/changing/playing accessories in tow. While the constant commute wore on us, the Twins made it all worth it.
But now we’re back, and the country roads that took us home to a place we didn’t belong are fading from memory, as if all a bad dream.
However, the week before we achieved manifest destiny, I entrusted the Twinfants to the care of their Grandma and made trips to the new house to drop off fragile items (you know, ice sculptures, taxidermic animals, cinderblocks…) and make preparations to facilitate the influx of boxes we are still tripping over. One of these tasks was to acquire and program new garage door remotes since we were not left any by the previous occupants.
I’d done this before and selected my go-to universal remote, as it is one of few automated products with instructions that actually mean it when they say setup only takes five minutes. Behold the Chamberlain Clicker:
However, the five minutes it usually takes to sync this remote was thwarted by the bane of many consumers, the dreaded plastic packaging:
Upon seeing this, I thought, No problem. I’ll just go get the scissors… Oh. Sh!t.
It was at that moment I realized I had no scissors.
I had no knife.
All I had was the aforementioned fragile odds and ends we were too lazy to box.
I wasn’t about to drive 30 minutes back to our other house and 30 minutes back, and after spending three hours store-hopping for new house supplies, I really didn’t want to buy new ones, especially since we already own five.
My gut reaction was to channel my inner Larry David.
But after a deep, calming breath, I decided to survey the house and see what I had to work with. None of my keys were sharp enough, and too-thin picture-hanging nails left in the walls were also a bust. Even Christopher’s (our mounted sabre tooth tiger) fangs were too dull. I paced from room to room, about to give up.
Then, a heavenly beacon of light shone upon these:
I’ve stated previously that my wife and I are ninjas, but I’ve suspected your skepticism, O Loyal Reader. Maybe now you’ll believe me.
A smile slashed clear through my peeved demeanor. YES.
This life-changing moment immediately reminded me of a certain Bruce Willis scene in Pulp Fiction.
Figuring it would give me the most leverage (and since I have nothing to prove phallically) I selected the shortest blade.
I strategically positioned it.
Then, remembering my internship with Pai Mei, I harnessed my chi and lashed forward in one powerful, lighnting-quick motion.
The impenetrable seal had been vanquished. The heavens sang.
Out of respect for my adversary, I switched to more civilized hand-to-hand combat to finish it off.
Having watched his brother fall to a gruesome demise, the package for the second remote was already waving a white flag as I scissor-kicked towards it. No contest.
The battle won, I flaunted my bounty in an elaborate procession to the garage, where I found the garage door opener sealed shut with Phillips head screws.
And I had no screwdriver.
I eyed the sword for a moment. Maybe if I… No. Bad idea.
Sighing in defeat, I backflipped into the house and started looking for a Phillips head.
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If not, you probably shouldn’t say it out loud. I may hear you.
Since Friday of last week, I haven’t been able to spend much time constructing genius word sculptures for you, O Loyal Reader. However, throughout the course of my fustercluck of a Monday, I was able to slowly–and in about twenty sittings on my BlackBerry (Yes, I’m still rocking the BlackBerry. Someday I’ll have enough money to join you iPhone hipsters.)–generate the following manifesto explaining why I’ve been so busy. In the interest of time, I resorted to the “list” format overused on magazine covers, such as “859 New Looks for Fall” which is an actual “article” I saw advertised on one of my teen sister-in-law’s recent issues. While I’m admittedly using a lazy writing device, I’m also admitting it, so now you have no choice but to enjoy The Top Six Reasons This is a List:
(Pause for medieval fanfare.)
1. We just moved.
This past weekend we packed the belongings of the entire Pseudonymous entourage into a U-Haul, and now that We-Hauled them to the new Pseudonymous World Headquarters, we’re still busy reassembling furniture without the proper tools that are in a box that I swear I just saw over there and OW! This f*cking box just ripped off my toenail!
Yeah. It’s taking a while.
2. I started school last week.
Even though when last school year ended I retired from teaching middle school, the last few months have still felt pretty typical for me–as if it were just another summer vacation. Well, except for the whole becoming a parent and taking care of twin babies thing. But I did know I’d be returning to my Ph. D. program when Fall hit, so it was like a summer vacation. So as I’m still shifting gears from Summer Mist to Fall Frenzy, once my workflow is, um, flowing, my writing for this fine publication will surely follow. I just need to get myself back into “school mode.” (OMG! I had homework on the FIRST DAY! Can you believe it? My teachers are SOOO mean! I swear, the pale one is a vampire.)
3. Laundry outsourcing.
Our World Headquarters doesn’t have a washer or a dryer yet (Yeah, I know, it’s not a very good World Headquarters) so until we do, I’ve been packing up the kids and our diaper pack mule/tauntaun and heading to Grandma’s house with basketfuls of spit-up-caked clothes from all members of our family, both spitters and spittees.
4. Special guest time-suckers.
I have hosted a revolving door of essential service calls this week, including TV satellite, Internet, plumbing, and Room of Requirement installation. A few of them were creepy, and I’m not even talking about the wizard. I expected him to be eccentric. I just don’t feel the need to answer questions about my kids’ favorite baby foods or chat about how effective the new cable modem your company made me buy is, especially when I am clearly holding a crying little girl and attempting to get said little girl down for a nap. And yes, I AM bringing my son in the room with me instead of leaving him out there with you. With all due respect, your mustache is unsettling.
5. HBO Sunday Nights
Holy crap! Is anyone else watching True Blood and Curb Your Enthusiasm? Is it just me, or are they even more phenomenal than usual this season? Whether you agree or not (in which case you’d be wrong), after the weekend we had, there’s no way I was going to miss My Stories.
6. We have twins.
It’s a miracle I’m able to write at all. Gimme a friggin’ break.
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If not, might I suggest HBO Sunday Nights?
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.
“Some day you’re going to look back on this and miss me throwing dirty diapers at you.”
My wife has developed an interesting habit. It begins when she changes the Twins’ diapers and rolls the dirty ones up into neat little balls using the Velcro straps. Now, I had seen this method utilized by other parents before we had the Twins, and understand the philosophy behind it–containing the stank within the confines of the diaper so that until it is thrown away (and even once disposed of), the rankness does not seep out. This part I get.
However, doing so seems to also give my wife license to just leave these little parcels wherever they have been created–changing tables, blankets on the floor, or even our own bed, where we change and feed the Twinfants every morning.
Minutes and minutes of researching our family history for the genesis of this tendency have revealed that it began when we (well, in a strictly anatomical sense, she) first had the Twins. I’ll admit it was a bit of a clusterf*ck in that we were constantly exhausted, running on four hours of sleep compounded over an eight-hour period, each of us feeding a baby every 2-3 hours, day and night. During that time, it was very common for both of us to simply leave dirty diapers where we changed the kids and throw them away later when they were finally asleep and had the an opportunity to do so.
There is also the argument that when changing one of the kids, the diaper disposal device–either our Diaper Genie or Diaper Champ–isn’t always right next to the changing location, so I can also understand that, especially now that the kids are able to roll around (and off things like changing tables and beds).
However, there are a few reasons why these diaper wads have gotten on my nerves.
First of all, they’re DIRTY DIAPERS. They staaank (sick sic). Now, I will give my wife credit for always properly disposing of poop-centric diapers, but liquid-based ones she lets linger start to smell just as much when you have four of them on the corner of the bed collaborating as a pleasant-odor-fighting Injustice League. Even though they are sealed to prevent liquid leakage, the stink burrows its way out.
Furthermore, because I’m the one who’s home all day, whenever my wife creates these treats in the morning before work, I am thus tasked with throwing them away. With as much as I pretend to do around the house as it is, I would prefer not to have to dispose of newly-established dirty diaper colonies.
Finally, the most irritating reason (which is the true spearhead of this domestic exposé) is that my wife has taken to throwing these diaper balls at yours truly. In fact, she had even dubbed these parcels “Diaper Bullets.” Her military strategy is built around times I am tired and thus more vulnerable to attack. Since she is a much lighter sleeper than I am, she’s always the first person to wake up when the Twins do. As I’m drifting back into the real world from vanquishing Voldemort or sticking it to the Galactic Empire, I’ll often be “helped along” by the impact of the still-warm diaper that has just been removed from the first-changed child. I am also often met with a barrage of fire just before going to bed. I’ll be watching tv, reading, or even taking my glasses off to lie down, and catch a faint, ever-intensifying whiff of baby urine, but before I can perform an evasive maneuver, BAM!
Now, don’t get me wrong–I don’t just take this “lying down” so to speak. I retaliate with return fire, prompting a spontaneous sort of dodgeball match, but with soiled diapers.
At the same time, the “shot heard ’round the world” in the morning when I’m still half asleep and the unsuspecting kamikaze attacks before bed are what really annoy me, as I’m already tired and irritable.
I mean, really, I enjoy throwing dirty diapers at my wife as much as the next guy, but during the day when I’m alert and caffeinated. More often than not, the projectiles are unwelcome.
Of course, my wife and I have discussed this matter. I’m not just passive-aggressively blogging about this instead of communicating with her. I will say that in recent weeks, conditions have improved, for me at least. She has actually moved on to other victims–her mother and sister for example–and whenever doing so, in the same way that a wayward golf ball merits a “Fore!” she courteously bellows “Diaper Bullet!” As the perplexed target attempts to decipher what the hell she just said, he or she takes the answer to the face.
However, I have also noticed a recent resurgence of Diaper Bullet stockpiles throughout the house. She swears it’s because our lives are so chaotic at the moment since we are moving this week and stumbling over boxed belongings hourly; she allegedly forgets to go back and dispose of them because there’s so much else to do.
But I know her real motive. She is amassing ammunition.
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If not, I’d watch out for Diaper Bullets.