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.
By the Friday of every week I am completely exhausted. After wrangling the Twins, beating the snot out of my house-husbanding chores, and writing this fine publication (which many have recently remarked that they cannot believe I have time for), I am spent. So spent that my during-the-rest-of-the-week 2:00 pm crash usually hits at 11:30 am, while lying on the floor with my progeny in the middle of Tummy/Rolling All Over the Place Time, as I nod off mid-pseudo-engaging-baby-critical-thinking-question-about-the-toys-they-are-marvelling-at. (“What color is that ball? What shape is that ba–Zzzzzz…Ow! Did you just punch me in the nose? … What color is my nose?”)
With that in mind, I usually set few, very small goals for Fridays.
Take last Friday for example. It was the end of my busiest week in a while. In addition to my regular duties (huh-huh, I said duties), I’ve been doing some contracted tech work as well as boxing belongings and seeking out new residences for the Pseudonymous family since we have recently decided to move.
And so, as I resuscitated myself with my super-charged Friday morning coffee, I decided to aim low. Aside from the givens (twin care, dishwashing, ninjutsu training), my primary objective was to browse the iTunes store for music and determine what I would purchase with the $15 gift card my wife got me over a month ago for Father’s Day. (Would you believe I haven’t had time?) I’ve had it sitting out on the counter as a reminder ever since receiving it from my wonderful wife, and have caught taunting glimpses of it while making bottles, folding laundry, and soothing meltdowns.
With months of trophy husbanding experience under my belt, I believed this iTunes iTask to finally be within my iGrasp. Even if the kids were particularly grumpy, I could line up my sonic candidates like reality show contestants waiting for the red rose of approval, hit play, and discriminatingly consume. In fact, the Twinfants would most certainly enjoy the ever-changing sensory stimulation generated by the constant toggling of song clips.
No problem, right?
Well, of course not. Why would I write about that? It failed miserably.
The primary reason the plan disintegrated like a drool-drenched Graduates Puff was that we had absolutely no Nap Overlap. Those of you who are Loyal Readers know this means my children were never asleep at the same time. In fact, for the entire day, they were on completely opposite sleep schedules. As soon as I delivered one to Sleepy Town, the other was just waking up. All. Freaking. Day.
Now, I will admit this situation has its advantages, for instance facilitating quality one-on-one time with each of the twins individually, which is something all the books about twins that I don’t have time to read seem to say is important. On the other tiny hand, such a rhythm does not facilitate Daddy getting a freaking second to himself. Not to go to the bathroom, not to eat (unless I combine them), not even to accomplish tedious tasks like defunkifying dishes, laundering laundry, and listening to smooth on-hold jazz while waiting to haggle with customer service representatives.
Plus, at almost seven months old, the Twinfants are teething and especially irritable. As a matter of fact, amidst Frankenstein-monster moans akin to dueling banjos, transparent vampire-fang drool trickles flowing from each mouth corner, angry head-butts to Daddy’s sternum, and the frantic gnawing of foam books, plush pandas, and human fingers, we have sprouted the First Two Teeth of Pseudonymous: The Next Generation, with our son’s inaugural chomper emerging on Thursday evening and our daughter’s fashionably late pearly white fanfaring into view Saturday morning.
Guess which day was right in the middle? That’s right. Friday, the day iFailed.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. Although both kids had their share of I-need-you-to-hold-me-right-now-Daddy-or-I-will-shatter-every-window-with-my-squeals moments, there were also a few peppered throughout the day when they seemed content, or, as Snoop Dogg wouldn’t say: “Rollin’ down the floor, sucking teething rings, sippin’ on baby formula, laid back, with their minds on their (stuffed) monkeys and their monkeys on their minds.”
Then, I got greedy.
On at least three occasions, I thought, Okay, they seem pretty chill. I could maybe squeeze in a song sample or twenty. I even lowered my laptop’s volume and strategically placed it in accessible but out-of-baby-sight locations, as I have learned they do NOT like to compete with Skynet for my attention. On my final Hail Mary attempt, I even tried earbuds. However, every listening session ended abruptly, about five seconds into the first clip, as they noticed I was not staring at them, hanging on their every gesture, the only proper response for which, of course, is a tantrum. This did not make for an optimal music previewing atmosphere.
I’ll admit I missed an opportunity around 2 pm, just after bottle-guzzling. They were happily cooing at their playthings on the floor, and I home-run trotted to my computer. This is it! I thought. It’s all happening! I chose an album (The Features’ Wilderness) clicked “play all samples,” and rejoined the munchkins on the floor. As they chattered and smiled at me occasionally, I laid on my back and stared at the ceiling fan, listening to my prospective new jams. Which made me think of seeing the band live when they came to Phoenix a few years ago. It was just my wife and me then. Simpler times. Not “better” times by any means, but definitely simpler. And I remembered the electrifying onstage energy the band had, and the badass hollow-bodied guitar their frontman rocked. Which made me think about how Pseudonymous hasn’t “Gone Electric” in a while. I’ve been folking out with the Twins acoustically, but haven’t “plugged in” for months. I should do that. Do I need new strings?
Before I knew it, the song previews had ended 15 minutes ago and I had still only paid attention to the first five seconds of the first song.
Now, before you decide that this poor, frustrated soul is clearly on his last nerve and take it upon yourself to send in your magical parenting guru suggestions about what I should have done in order to achieve my iGoal even though you: 1) weren’t here, 2) weren’t as tired as I was, and 3) have never met my children and thus don’t know what works (and what doesn’t) with them, I want to emphasize that in the scheme of things, I don’t care about the stupid iTunes card. (I also already tried your suggestion anyway since eating Wheaties daily makes me a Champion by definition.)
The more I pushed to “git-r-done,” the more I realized that purchasing music was just not in the cards for me that day. (Haha, get it?) Even more importantly, every day I could focus on achieving little tasks like buying music, getting every last dish washed, or writing yet another genius blog post–and in doing so, continually exasperate myself because the Twins usually need me more than I anticipate. Or, instead, I could remind myself what a privilege staying home to raise them is. Even though I spend more time with them than anyone else, it still feels like they’re growing up so quickly. I know although my wife enjoys her job, it doesn’t hold a candle to seeing them all day on weekends, and remember when I first returned to work from paternity leave, I felt like I was missing out all day.
Every moment I have with them is an opportunity for me to savor the awe-inspiring experience that is parenthood and, in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
There will be plenty of time for me to buy my stupid music in the future, and yes, over the weekend, I was finally able to redeem the gift card one night once the kids went to sleep. As it turned out, it was an even better Fathers’ Day present than it first appeared to be.
It reminded me how lucky I am to be a Dad.
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If not, maybe you just need a day off. It worked for Cameron.