My Town, My Twins

BLUEPRINT FOR DAYLIGHT, my award-winning memoir of infidelity, cancer, colicky twins, and the flood in my basement

has recently been excerpted. . . twice!

The print publication, Connecticut’s Emerging Writers:  an Anthology is available HERE

LARK BLOOM, a blogsite devoted to essays on disability, creativity, and family, is available HERE

I am extremely grateful to Z Publishing and Lark Bloom.

XO

Teens VS. Toddlers

At a picnic recently, someone handed me a baby. While I held it, they did that slanty head thing and said “Awwww..don’t you miss it?” I looked at the baby, who was pretty cute actually. Warm and heavy in my arms. I handed the baby to the mother and said “Not at all.” I laughed when I said it, so she wouldn’t think I hated her baby. But afterwards I made right for the cocktail table. Just to stop the baby-recall shakes.

That new mother was probably expecting me to say, “Oh yes, I remember when my boys were young. It was just the BEST time.”

But I couldn’t bring myself to lie. A good portion of the time I remember thinking I was in a sinking boat where there was just me, three children under five, one diaper and and empty can of Isomil. There’s a whole block of time, lets call it a decade, that if it wasn’t for photos I wouldn’t remember much at all. Especially once the twins came.

I bought into the magazine-inducing delusion that my life as a young mother should be idyllic. That I could have perfect children who shared in the sandbox, ate the whole birthday cupcake and not just the top and slept through the night. The reality was that taking a trip to buy formula was like a mini-vacation, sometimes my kids ate sand and if the cupcake liners didn’t come off cleanly, they cried.

Thank God there was no Pinterest or Facebook. There was no pressure to make my own birthday banner out of outgrown onesies or feed my baby a vegan diet. Or name my baby Vegan. I only had Martha Stewart Living and learned how to make my own dirt.

Having teenagers is fantastic. I think children should come into the world this way. The doctor could slide up to you in line at Starbucks and say, “Congratulations! Your new son is outside bringing the car around. He wants a Grande to go. Here, sign this paper that says you will spend all your money on ITUNES.” No diapers. No colic. Sign me up.

Recently, Spencer and Parker and I were looking at some of their baby photos. Parker said to me, “What if you forgot which one I was, and I’m really Spencer?” I laughed (a little too loudly) and said “Eat your spaghetti.”

But that probably happened.

All three

Get On The Fun Train

Sometimes I try to live like Oprah. You know, “fully aware”, “present in the moment”, “living my best life”, and all that jazz. I’ve done visualization to lose weight, (SEE yourself thin), practiced escaping from home invaders (don’t fight over personal belongings; if the bad guy wants the toaster, give it to him- but first, eat your bagel) and of course, I practiced Oprah 101: I read “The Secret.” “The Secret” is all about thanking the universe, God, the sun- whatever your deity of choice, for the good things in your life. Then asking said deity for more good things.

If you have a crappy life, try another book.

The idea is to focus on the happy and ignore the sad. I was mostly happy. Until I wasn’t. To recap: closed successful business, aimlessly roamed the house while eating bread and chocolate during the day and used the grapes in Cabernet Sauvignon as a dietary supplement. Oh, and my Grandmother died. I was unemployed, lonely, fat, in mourning and had a hangover. That about sums it up. The jury was in: I needed FUN. I’ve suffered before. Suffer Lite, I call it. Pain from too much exercise, pain from general irritation and pain from childbirth. (I had C-sections sponsored by morphine. Don’t hate me.) This pain was different. It came on slow, but had the power to swallow me up. It was a silent pain and the worst part was I was getting used to the feeling. We were alone together all day, just me and Low. Low can be company. Not good company, as it turns out. Any company that has you alone, lingering over the knife drawer while contemplating a warm ciabatta is a sign. Other signs: your local baker knows you and offers to name a cupcake after you because of your spending habits. Also, if your actual nickname is ‘cupcake.’ I may have learned heard about this.

It was time for some fun.

Immediately after the ciabatta incident I got down on my knees and did the Full-on-Secret schpeel. In the kitchen and facing the setting sun I said “God, I don’t know what I am supposed to be doing right now. I just know that things are harder than they need to be and I’ll take the next fun thing and run with it. Oh, and thank you for keeping the planet safe from nuclear annihilation.” Don’t forget the gratitude. Oprah says the universe loves it.

Sometimes, though, The Secret doesn’t work right away. You have to wait. I waited a baguette laden month until a random Tuesday when Spencer, one of our twins, asked “Mom, can I get a hamster?” My initial reaction was Ewwww….rodents. I’ll pass. But then I remembered that I needed fun, and what could be better than a big fuzzy mouse? Also, I made a promise to the universe and I’m pretty sure it keeps track.

Suddenly, I was excited. I don’t know that I was having fun exactly, but it was a start. I brushed the breadcrumbs off my shirt and we jumped in the car and headed to the local Petco. The smell in Petco is nasty. It’s a strange reptile, aquarium, unwashed people with groomed dogs smell. But I breathed out my nose and in my mouth because it was in the name of fun. Spencer knew exactly where the hamsters were and within 15 seconds had staked his claim. “This one is mine.” The hamster looked like Chris Farley. Other hamster shoppers were milling around and my competitive streak kicked in. “Boys, stay here and guard, I’ll get the hamster lady.” I eyed a man and his daughter drawn to Spencer’s hamster and gave them an intimidating look. Hey Buddy, go buy a fish. Oh my God, did I just say that out loud? It’s a good thing I’m having fun. Parker, twin #2 picked a hamster also and we spent, dare I say- a fun hour choosing cages, cardboard shavings, food and exercise wheels. $182.35 later and I was having even more fun. Although it could have been shoppers-high.

Once we got home I was surprised how doting Spencer and Parker were. They had listened carefully to the Hamster Lady’s instructions and constructed their cages with care. Spencer named his: Tobias Hamster (with a silent H, apparently he’s Spanish). Parker chose a girl and named her Loretta. Besides the fact that one was Spanish and the other Italian, the differences between the hamsters was immediately evident. Tobias is a teddy bear hamster. All fuzz and impossible to resist. Loretta looks like Rachel Maddow. Once they were in their new habitats Tobias quickly went to his wheel, spun himself silly for an hour, ate with abandon and promptly fell asleep in his food bowl. He was a disheveled, adorable mess. Loretta didn’t have time to play on her wheel. First, she investigated every corner of her cage, presumably checking for safety hazards. After lowering the readiness alert to DEFCON 5, she loaded her cheeks with dried corn, buried them away from possible intruders, then made a nest of shavings high up in her plastic treehouse. Loretta was all business, but Tobias- Tobias was having fun. The twins and I were sucked into their little hamster world and watched them all night.

Trevor, our seventeen-year old came home late. He seemed to be relieved, finding me with a book, instead of sharpening the bread knives. After checking out the twin’s room, he ducked his chin and raised his eyebrows at me. “What the heck are those things? Did you just decide, ‘Today we’re getting hamsters?'” In a flash I realized that my lifetime of planning every detail showed the kids that I wasn’t up for spontaneity. That’s no good. I had to show them that when things get hard, and they will- that you can’t wait for an invitation to be happy. I was going to be more like Tobias and less like Loretta.

Sometimes you just have to party hard and fall asleep in the food bowl. Maybe that’s the secret.

“Yeah.” I said to Trevor, “get on the fun train.”

Author’s Note: At this writing bread has been banished in favor of apples. They may be in a pie, but it’s a start.

hamster-fluffy-food

There’s A Chair In My Bathroom

There’s a chair in my bathroom
Which must be quite rare
As my sons upon seeing it asked
“What’s that doing there?”

“Fear not my children,” I placated
Patting their spiky-haired heads
“It’s a retreat for me to sit, perhaps read a book”
(And refrain from anxiety meds).

My bathroom, recently remodeled
Has smooth white marble tile
With a new vanity and tub it lacked only
A reading spot for me, a bibliophile.

Late one night I was found
Laying on my bed prone-
Searching the internet for something to recover
From a long weekend, a house full of testosterone.

I ordered a chair! It arrived Monday
I happily put it together
Gray, a dark tufted tweed-
So lovely and comfortable, I could sit there forever!

Reading, sometimes writing-
With the door shut, I hear not a thing.
No squabbling twins, no teenage demands
I rejoice in my quiet, relax; nearly sing.

But if I should, from my peaceful perch
With legs tucked under, be alerted
To the sound of masculine voices from my ivory tower,
I simply reach behind me and turn on
The shower.

IMG_3348

Poem and Artwork property of Christine Kalafus. Not to be reproduced without permission.

I Got You Babe

In the beginning there was us.

Oh, that exciting, stomach-butterfly time when there was nothing better than being together!

It didn’t matter whether we were  laughing over a joke or going for a hike.

We were all we needed. He and Me.

That lasted until about a year into our marriage. Suddenly, Greg mentioned “there was something missing.”  I thought that something was a trip to Europe. Greg thought what was missing was a baby. We debated it.

My argument:  “Think of all the beautiful things to see and do in Europe:  The Louvre, the Crown Jewels, the ruins!” His argument:  “My back hurts, I’m not getting any younger (he was 25), babies are beautiful and Europe will still be there when the baby grows up”.

I’ve never been a great debater.

Therefore there was us + a baby.  He was so cute and we  loved him so much we decided to have another.

Then there was us + a pre-schooler + twins.

Then there was complete and utter bedlam.

How did we get here? This was a question that had the power to distract me while I chased. I did a lot of chasing. I chased our toddler twins around the park, chased the clock to get to work on time and chased after my ideal body as I jogged down the street. I did it all while routinely both wiping gummed Cheerios from my shirt and baking a Bon Appetit worthy cake for the PTA.

Yes, I thought to myself,   I see how we got here, but what about the He and Me part?  We had children to be a family but ended up separate.

We had defaulted to the Divide and Conquer plan that worked for Rome.  Or Go Fish:  Do you have twin #1? I’ll trade him to take to the grocery store.  I’ll give you twin #2 and  the kindergartener for you to go to Home Depot.  Let’s meet up back here and count our kids and purchases and see who wins.  Whoo hoo!

Our family was happy and healthy but I worried that all this “togetherness” was anything but.  There was precious little time for Date Night, and when we got the chance we ended up talking about which child was going through a “smear the walls with peanut butter” phase, which one was smarter and which one was most likely to end up in jail.  We healthily engaged in wine drinking.

Comic relief we had, real togetherness time, not so much.

Fast-forward 10 years.  Suddenly we have the opposite problem:  the kids don’t need us 24-7 and can actually be trusted to make their own dinner, brush their teeth and go to bed before 11 pm.

Excellent! NOW we can go do things together, I thought.   Just He and Me, like before kids!

Now if I could just remember what we used to do…

Next Posting, Part II:  “I Got You Babe,  Now What?”