Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wrangling Tornados

Reading past posts, I realize I make everything involving Maya and Mina seem like a dreamy cake walk, like raising them is the easiest thing in the world. And though they are perfect (mmhmm, that's right, Perfection) and even though I do shower their path with rose petals ("Make way for the child goddesses, goddamnit), raising them is an exhausting constant vigil if for the simple fact that parenting is a 26 hour a day job. My day looks like a bowed reed.

Last night when I finally got my ass into bed, I looked back on the day, a typical, uneventful Tuesday. I looked over at Husband who was already conked out and I thought: It's like wrangling tornados on the daily. I've only contained them with sleep.

Yesterday started as usual, around 6:30. This is the exact moment the wrangling begins. Maya shoots up like a spring that’s been squeezed into a box for 10 hours, and she’s off and running from the moment her eyes open. Mina is sloth-like in the mornings. The bartering begins. "Mina, you get 5 more minutes is you jump up the next time Mami calls you. JUMP UP, like a crazed rabbit!" Mina thinks this is funny and may actually do it. But it’s a crap shoot. Maya has showered and is on her 45th round of "Feliz Navidad" at volume 8 out of 10. I can barely take it. But as I brush my teeth, I'm all humming, "prospero año y feli---" I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE: "Maya! Bro, seriously, how many more times will you sing that song? 5 more? 6 more? Just give me a hint so I know that there's an end in sight. MINA! FIVE MINUTES IS UP." It's really been ten.

Maya switches to a made-up, chant-like song that goes like this: "Who's the batman. You're the batman. Who's the batman. You're the batman. Who's the batman. You're the batman. . . ." And on and on. I want to cry. But I can relate because once in junior high school I got a big, fat Zero on a math test because I couldn't stop singing, "How. Now. Brown. Cow. I said, How. Now. Brown. Cow. I said -- "

I'm making their lunches and I'm singing, "Who's the batman" and I realize Mina is nowhere in sight. I go into their room and she's on her top bunk staring into space, hardly a jumpity rabbit. I'm relieved that her tshirt is on at least. "Dude, snap out of it. We gotta get going." She looks at me like, WTF?

I check in on Maya who has one side of her hair braided, the other half is wet and laying on her shoulders. She is now doing a Who's The Batman dance in the mirror. I'm like, "Nice dance. Stop dilly dallying because the bus is coming in 10 minutes." I have to say the lame "dilly dallying" for fear that HURRY THE FUCK UP will escape from my lips. Mina Check: She is under Maya's covers now, on the bottom bunk, with our dog Lupe in a head lock. Me: "WHAT THE--?" Mina scurries out of bed recognizing the edginess to my voice. Lupe shakes her off. "Socks. Shoes. Teeth. Now." Though I’m crazy rushed, I still say this with the Scottish inflection of So I Married An Axe Murderer.

There is always a point in our morning routine where I have to talk myself down. I have to will patience on myself like I'm shoving on a sticky, rubber bathing cap, ripping hairs as I pull it on. I have to remind myself that they are just carefree kids not little manipulators calculating their test against my strength. This happens many times a day, the wrestling game with the patience bathing cap.

"What do you guys want for breakfast?"
"Waffles please," they say in sweet chorus.

The word Please allows the bathing cap to slide on smoothly. They're great, I think. Lunches are done, backpacks packed, everyone relatively clean and combed, waffles and fruit in baggies, shoes on, dogs on leashes. 7:18 and we're ready to walk to the bus stop, almost on time. Mina stops to run back to her room for – I don’t know what. “God, ¡VAMONOS!” I yell.

"OH, Mami can you read and sign this?" Maya says.
"What? No," I say, "We're leaving, girl. The bus is coming."
"It's due today." She is pleading.
Mina whines, "I don't want waffles."
I contemplate if Tough Titties is appropriate to say to them. Maya hands me a dense, two-page note from the PTA about some student council horsecrap.

We're walking to the bus stop, Maya quickly, Mina dragging. The dogs are bananas. They scatter in all directions thrilled by outside smells. They run this way and that like they're feral until my legs are mummified by the leashes. Lupe shits in the middle of the street as we cross it. I don't understand this. We are a yard away from grass. Carmen steps in the shit, possibly on purpose. I see the bus lumbering up a half a block away and the girls kiss me and sprint towards the stop.

I go to work and do amazing and brilliant things there until 4:30.

Tuesday is my day to pick up the girls. Tuesday is Library Day. The plan is to go to Wild Oats after I pick them up, eat a little some-some and then head to the library for homework and good ol book fun. After spending 15 minutes gathering them and their shit from all corners of AfterSchoolProgram and saying farewell to every single friend and staff member, we are finally off to Wild Oats, where I barely survive. Taking both kids to the market is like trying to herd rabid cows. Aisles are not big enough for these two. They want to play tag in the wine section. They horde samples. They bump into other people with impromptu, creative jumping games. If I allow them to push the cart it's a guaranteed ruptured achilles. They reenact scenes from school elaborately as I catch knocked-off boxes from the shelves. I make them hold onto the cart, one on one side, one on the other. "GGgrrr, walk!" I yell behind a locked jaw, "Like stiff marchers." They walk. They march. Then they're high stepping. They're dancing, doing a jig. They’re po-go’ing. They're hanging off the cart like side-car racers tipping the basket into a turn. If I have to concentrate on a label or directions to a recipe, I make them sit down in the aisle. Fuck it. It contains them for 2 seconds. Until they are rolling on the ground tackling each other knocking into a chips' display. I am laughing but I say, "Have you guys been in public before? I mean, for reals?" They are dumbfounded, like, What do you mean? I let them make their own salads at the salad bar. They are surprisingly focused. Mina's salad is made of egg yolks, peas, carrots and sharp parmesan cheese. Maya's salad is a sample of every item at the bar. We get to the check out and Maya asks the clerk -- and this scene happens every single time we're in the store --, "Can I bag?" Clerk, sweetly, "Sure." Maya, to me, "Paper or plastic, ma'am?" "Paper, please." She is quite good at packing a bag now. The clerk always offers her a job. This is part of the scenario. The bill is paid, bags are packed and Maya says in a feigned baritone, "Would you like help to your car, ma'am?" Me: "Why yes, yes I would." "I'm helping her to her car," she tells the clerk with a wink.

We eat in the car like a pack of homeless ladies because they don't want to sit at the tables in Wild Oats for some reason. We talk and laugh and eat. We make the food talk and we eat chips in different ways, like a wood cutter or like the Cookie Monster. Inevitably, they spill some shit on the seats that will smell up the car for the next 48 hours. Then we walk to the library and the girls hide behind every pole and tree because each car is their "Enemy Foe." At the library it's a series of Sshh's and Do Your Homework and Yes, I'll Read That and No, You Can’t KickBox the Magazine Rack. My own writing and reading go untouched.

At home, they run around and square off in extreme Tae Kwon Do battles, until someone's crying. They jump on the bed and chase the dogs and nag each other. They get to watch one show a night and they demand that I lie down between them. If I'm physically closer to one or the other, they go to blows. The whining drives me bananas. We watch That's So Raven, quite possibly the funniest show on TV. And we talk about the themes and scenarios of the show. We talk about every theme and scenario that comes to mind. They beg for cereal and candy and apples and Luna Bars. They fight over what book I should read them. Then the Go to Bed Dance begins. I'm exhausted now so the bathing cap is sticking together and shrinking. I have to Do Their Pillow because I showed them how Bugs Bunny used to fluff his pillow to perfection. I have to sing Fly Me to the Moon twice because I've been singing that every night since Maya was in the womb. There's a couple "I'm scared of my dreams" by Mina which are easily soothed. Finally, I announce, "Guys, I'm so tired and I have to do stuff still. Can you just chiz-ill now?" Maya says, "You're the best, Mami." Gulp. I say, "'Cause I'm a push over?" She laughs, "Pretty much." But they hug me like there are a slue of other reasons too.

I leave. Two more bathroom runs. A couple more hugs. They bicker from their bunks over something. And Papi walks in and says, "QUIET." And they are obedient angels under his command.

The tornadoes are wrangled once again. Until 6:30. The next morning. In a couple hours.


Glamorous Jo said...

Wonderful rich with character! Love it!

Marigoldie said...

Oh so colorful and vivid. It's like a walk in Times Square.

kiki said...

this made me all nostalgic for when my sister and i were kids. we used to cause the same kind of havoc.
by the way, thank you for being on my map.

HollyRhea said...

stop, stop, stop.

My head hurt when you did the patience bathing cap thing. I FELT it.

Every time I read your blog, I have to reassess why I blog. Because I don't write well. I just like to be silly.

I'm glad you write well.

melanie said...

With two daughters of my own, I can relate to many parts of your day. My own 'patience bathing cap' gets tested several times a day, like in the morning trying to get out the door on time, shopping, or during bedtime routine. Thanks for sharing the realness...

acumamakiki said...

Oh my! I've always known that having 2 kids is like this.....wonderful, dramatic, chaotic,whirling. Makes me glad for my one. (= Glad to see another mama already at patience overload and the day has barely begun.

When my sister and I were little, we'd pretend to be different people eating our cottage cheese. I love that you play this game with your girls.

Cynthia Perello said...

Reading this made me feel really good on many levels D. Much love and respect.

madness rivera said...

HR - you are not allowed to speak badly of yourself. You're blog and your expression rocks.

I love to hear the sister stories. I'm an only child so I'm going in blind trying to understand that dynamic.

la vie en rose said...

oh yes, i know. tornados...good analogy.

erica said...

So like my days when my kids were young. Moo used to dance in the china department, arms wide open, toes pointed. Embrace it while you can bathing cap and all, my daughter will be 21 on the 22nd, and though I am proud of her elderly tude, I miss her dancing in the china department. My son is trying not to let the door smack his butt on the way out of high school. Occasionally we revert back to the good old days and squirm around on the floor laughing... cowabunga, I enjoyed your entry. Be well.

madness rivera said...

Wise advise Erica. Absolutely - I'm trying to embrace every crazy, loving, exhausting moment. Good reminder from one who knows.

Maven said...

I think this is one of my favorite posts from you--it's so immediate and true. My memories of hectic mornings as a kid are totally vague, but get this: I'm the oldest of four kids, and I always ate every bit of the lunch my mom packed, whether I wanted it or not, because the image of her flying around in the morning sending us off to (some years) four different schools and packing lunches and signing shit--well, that image was with me all day. I would've felt awful wasting my lunch or throwing anything out.

Also she put a first-day-of-school love note in my lunch every year until I finished high school.

madness rivera said...

Thanks Maven. I'm sure as the oldest, you were bit of a mini mami.

I do pack a note every day in their lunches too. I recently found out, by accident, that Maya has kept them all for the last 2 years. GIZZ-ULP.

Michelle Fry said...

I'm tired just reading this but it's a good tired :)

Anonymous said...

Exactly why I'm not a parent. Jesus. Making my coffee and feeding Buddy ... and I'm exhasted.
Loved the post. Felt like was in the eye of the storm.
Next time you go to Wild Oats I want to come too! xoxo-m

andrea said...

the image of pulling on a sticky rubber bathing cap? well, there's just no better way to describe that patience thing. got me one of those lovely old rubber bathing caps and I gotta tell ya, it's getting harder and harder (and tighter and tighter) each time I go to stretch it over my head. lord give me patience.

loving this hilarious peek into your everyday.