Me: M, please sit down and eat your breakfast.
M: Ooh, oohh. Aahh. Ahh.
Seconds later M is standing and jumping and running up the stairs. All the way to the top floor. I’m certain that he speaks English and that his ears are in good shape. I’ve heard him say things (and listen) before but now he is too far away to catch. So I try for monkey #2.
Me: B, please, sit down and eat your breakfast.
But before I finish my sentence she is under the table playing with her toes and giggling.
So I turn around and head for the kitchen. This is not worth fighting about (yet). We still have an hour before school starts. I do the dishes. As I’m buried in suds, someone asks me to wipe a butt. At least the command was in English and there was a please attached to it. So I stop and attend to my motherly duty. Returning to the sink, I’m grazed by something sprinting through the kitchen. Was that the roadrunner? No, monkey #2. He’s naked now. Pivoting, I see child #1 standing on top of the counter reaching for the cereal on the top shelf. I ask her to climb down. This time she understands me. And then, in a whir, all the monkeys are upstairs. That is good news, since it is time to dress.
Upstairs the primates are still in full-control of the house.
Me: M, you can wear whatever you want. You don’t have to listen to your sister.
M: I want to be a girl today. But (whispering) bring boy clothes to school so I can change when I get there. After B goes away.
B: No! No! You have to be a girl today. Wear my dress! Here is my underwear.
Me: B. Go get dressed in your room. Leave your brother alone. He can make his own decisions.
I open M’s dresser and hand him a pair of underwear. Screams come from the other bedroom so I go to check. It’s nothing serious. When I return to Monkey #2, I find he’s chosen a Peter Pan costume but he’s actually put it on himself. Then #1 arrives, and she is wearing a clean set of pajamas. At least it is clothing. In a flash, she is sliding down the banister, a whole two floors. And then I have to convince the monkey in pajamas and the monkey in Peter Pan clothes to put snow-wear ontop of their outfits for the walk to school.
I pull out monkey #2’s mittens and hat only to turn around to find that monkey #1 has turned over the whole basket of winter accessories and dozens of items litter the floor. I put a mitten on monkey #2, he takes it off. I zip a jacket for monkey #2, she decides she doesn’t like it. Then I start talking as if to no one.
I get down to their level and talk right to their faces:
Put on your boots.
Zip your jacket.
Please pick up your backpack. Etc.
But, it’s as if I’m in a vacuum or the words coming out of my mouth are in alien-speak. It’s been a whole week of this. I try the usual tactics:
*if you can hear me, put your hand on your butt (it used to be nose, but that lost their attention quickly, butt usually gets them to laugh).
*I ask in Turkish
*I ask in Russian.
*I threaten (no movie, no playdate, whatever the event-du-jour).
That’s the only thing that works. And then, somehow we are all out the front door. Both monkeys have on hats and mittens and snow boots. The snow pants and scarves are in the backpacks with the lunches and ballet clothes. We have only fifty yards to walk to school.
Monkey #1 climbs a snow bank and sinks into it, soaking her pajama bottoms because she refused to put on the snow pants.
Monkey #2 stops every two steps to try to catch snowflakes on his tongue.
It takes us 20 minutes to walk the 50 yards to the door of the school. All the gear must be removed and put in cubbies. And somehow, despite having achieved the impossible, getting two monkeys to a school only fifty yards from my front door on a snowy day, I feel like the biggest monkey of all. And I don’t even like bananas.
Note: I wrote this entry an hour before I heard of the bombing at the International terminal at Domodedovo Airport here in Moscow. Puts all my trivial comments about managing toddlers in perspective. We are fine and our friends are safe. Thankfully we were not traveling today. My heart goes out to those affected.