Family of Fakers

Today is Thanksgiving Day--What’s that? It’s only Sunday you say? Oh yeah. That’s right. It’s Thanksgiving for only MY family today. Why are we faking that today is Thanksgiving? Well, first of all, we missed the Canadian’s Thanksgiving which was on October 11th this year, which also happened to be the Canadian’s birthday. Also, another reason why we’re celebrating it today is this year we won’t be home on Thursday to celebrate the traditional Thanksgiving Day. We will be weathering the crowds in Manhattan to catch a glimpse of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Every decade I try to get to New York to see it. Sure, it’s a sacrifice to not have the traditional turkey dinner with all the fixins’, and then being able to take the traditional had-too-much-food-I-need-to-change-into-my-sweat-pants-and-take-a-nap tradition. But Rachel is only going to be young once and she doesn’t remember the first time I took her to the parade. She was three years old then.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - 2003

So, this year we’re going again. But this time we are not staying in Times Square as in years past. Typically we would stay at the Marriott Marquis right in Times Square. We would stumble out of bed at 5:00 a.m. and go stand on the streets of New York and wait for 6 hours for the parade. But this year we will be going in the RV! Oh, the adventures and stories to come! I can hardly wait!

Staying in NY for the Thanksgiving holiday takes planning way ahead of time. You can’t call the week before Thanksgiving and expect to get a room anywhere. So in January-March, you need to make your reservations, which is what I did. I found an RV park in Jersey City, NJ that is right across the river from Manhattan. I will go into more detail in my next blog about this when I have pictures to share. But for now, you just need to know that our lodging accommodations will be in NJ.

I have to admit that when I was booking this trip back in March that I hadn’t taken everything into consideration. Like standing on a cold winter street for possibly 6 hours without being able to use facilities anywhere. Restaurants and hotels in NY are real funny about that. They won’t let you in just to use the restrooms. So I thought we could all get some Depends and wear them, just in case. What do you all think about that idea? (I’ll let you know next week if that’s what we resorted to. Fun to picture, isn’t it? I haven’t mentioned this to Rachel yet but I can’t wait to see the horror on her face.)

Getting back to today, we are celebrating the traditional stay at home and cook turkey Thanksgiving today, even though it’s Sunday and nobody else in the world is doing the same thing. So far, it’s been a typical fake Thanksgiving day. I woke up, slightly groggy from partying the night before with friends. We went to the Hatfield/Spendolini’s house for dinner and ended up staying into the wee hours of the night, chatting and laughing the night away, sipping dessert wine through straws from shot glass-sized mugs. Good times…until you have to get up the next day and cook!

Back in my younger days, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was THE party night because we had the next day off from work and had no responsibilities other than to show up at the parents’ house for dinner. I spent many a Thanksgiving dinner being totally hungover back then. But actually at times it helped with having to deal with the relatives. Who has the energy to fight when you have a headache and feel like throwing up? So you fake the holiday spirit and when it’s time for you to state what you were thankful for, you come up with the most immediate thing you are thankful for. “I’m thankful for toilets. And for aspirin. But mostly for toilets. Mom, do I have to eat?”

Then you get older and you have your own family and it’s you that has to cook the meal. You learn not to party the night before.

When I woke up on this Sunday Thanksgiving morning, after getting home at 1:30a.m., it felt just like Thanksgivings past. Me, dragging my butt out of bed, remembering nobody is going to cook unless I go do it. Ugh! So since it’s a fake holiday, I pretended to be someone else, like Julia Child, and got myself to the kitchen and started cooking.


Speaking of pretending to be someone else, my Rachel has chops for acting. Back in the summer, I signed her up for Performance Arts Camp. For one week, she worked with acting coaches, and at the end of the week, performed a monologue on stage. I was shocked at how relaxed she was; how she had remembered all her lines; her comedic timing was impeccable. I found myself asking, “Who is that child?” At the end of the week, the coaches told me that she was very talented and told me of auditions that were happening at The Bushnell. I looked into it and marked the audition date on the calendar.

This would be Rachel’s first real audition. And mine, for that matter. I had no idea what to expect, but knew that she had to have a monologue and a song to sing a cappella. She practiced the monologue that she had done on stage during the summer. And she chose to sing a song that she had written herself called, “Having a Bad Day”. It’s a great song and she performs it wonderfully.

It just so happened that the audition was the day before school started. Most people were home preparing for school the next day, or maybe just relaxing before school started. But not us. We had to go to school and give an in-service to Rachel’s new teachers. An in-service is teaching her teachers how to use the equipment that helps Rachel be able to hear. This can be quite draining, covering everything that has to be covered and answering questions about her hearing loss. If that was the only thing I had to do that day, it would have been enough. But after the in-service at the school, we had an hour to get to The Bushnell for her audition for the Performing Arts Youth Collective (PAYC). We jumped in the car and hightailed it to Hartford. When we got there, there were no signs of where to go for the audition. Did we get the date wrong? Nope. We finally figured it out and ended up being 5th in line out of what turned out to be hundreds of kids that showed up for the audition. 5th? Score!

We handed in her head shot and resumé which was required.

I would have to say that I was more nervous for her than she was. She was all set. She had practiced her lines and sang her song and felt confident about what she was going to do. I wasn’t sure if she was going to have to audition on stage or what. So we practiced projecting her voice. But as it turned out, the audition was held in a room. A room that we, the parents, couldn’t see. I was uncomfortable about that but decided that God put us there so it had to be alright. The other parents and their hopeful children sat in a waiting area waiting for their numbers to be called. Some parents were visually nervous for their kids. Inside I admit was nervous, to let her go into a room with just a complete stranger doing the interviews while I waited outside. But I never let on that I was nervous. I hid it from Rachel and pretended that it was no big deal. "No biggie. Knock ‘em dead, Kiddo.” Hey, maybe she gets her acting abilities from me!?

Okay, so they call her number and off she goes, my confident 9 year old daughter to her first audition. “Good luck, Rachel! Have fun with it!” I say to her as my heart pounds out of my chest, hiding any apprehension I had, and praying that whoever interviews her, gingerly walks her through it and spares her of any obvious rejection. Nobody, or at least not this parent, wants to set their child up for failure. As she walked away, I tried to remember what brought us to that moment. Why am I doing this to this poor child? Then I remembered her performance on the stage during the summer and remembered the laughs she elicited from the audience, and knew she would be alright.

But that didn’t stop me from wanting to know how she was doing. So I stood up and put my ear to the wall to see if I could hear what was going on. Of course I couldn’t. Drats! But it was worth a try.

Five minutes went by, which felt like an hour, and Rachel came out. I asked how it went. She said, “Good. He liked me.” I said, “How do you know?” She said, “He smiled at me a lot and laughed at my responses to his questions. He was impressed that I had written the song and said I should get it recorded. Yeah, he liked me.”

We never got to meet the interviewer that night to find out how she did. When we left, they told us they would contact us via email to let us know if she made it. The week that followed, we checked her email account every night. The waiting to find out if she was in or not was exciting in itself.

Sure enough, we found out that week that Rachel was right. Although she was slightly wrong. The man that runs the PAYC that interviewed her didn’t just like her; he loved her! She got an email that stated that she was accepted. We all did a little happy dance as if she just got nominated for an Oscar. Unlike other parents, I had to contact the man to find out if he noticed that she wears hearing aids and to find out if wearing the fm microphone would be an issue for him or any of the acting coaches. He made me feel that it wouldn’t be a problem which is what I wanted to hear. In that conversation, he told me that he had a choice between putting her in a beginner’s group or the more experienced group. He chose the experienced group, which meant that she would be in a class with other kids that have actually been in performances, some from Broadway. How exciting!

Once a month I take her now to Hartford to hone her craft. She had to come up with a monologue, which yours truly wrote for her. She performed it for a few of the kids and for Michael Lamb, who runs the PAYC. He said it was funny, which made me feel good. So Rachel and I will be going on the road together as a mother and daughter act. Like the Judds, only funny, and not as fake as the two of them are. She will most likely be performing the monologue I wrote for her at the performance that is scheduled in March. If anyone would like to come and support Rachel’s efforts, or if you just want to come see a show at The Bushnell, let me know and I will get you tickets to the show.

To give you an idea of what the PAYC is, last week, she worked with Andrew Shipman who is playing in “Mary Poppins” on Broadway right now. At the end of the night, the kids got to ask him questions, and Mr. Lamb said don’t ask him silly questions like, “What’s your favorite color?” when it came time to ask him a question, Rachel was the first with her hand up. “Yes, Rachel?” “What’s your favorite color?” Everyone laughed she said. My daughter, the comedienne. Where does she get this stuff?

Who knows where this will all lead? Maybe she’ll end up on Broadway someday, and maybe she’ll just do this this year and be done with it. Either way, I want her to have fun. And so far, she’s loving it. No faking.

My Kaneclusion: So, today is Thursday (Not really, it’s Sunday.) In keeping with the faking theme of the day, I will be making fake turkey, tofurkey. (Not really, I’m cooking real turkey.) Rachel is acting - unhappy to be setting the table. (Not really, the kid loves carrying out all the traditions. She helped me yesterday making the stuffing and did the cranberry sauce. She’s happy to do it! And somehow she manages to do it all.) Dianne is faking her excitement of having to drive the RV to New Jersey. Actually, I’m not sure she’s doing that good a job of faking that. But I know that once we all get there, we’re going to have a blast! We have non-stop fun planned and all we need is the weather to cooperate.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Whenever and wherever you are celebrating the holiday this year, I hope you are spending time with the people you love, who love you back, and hope that in your circles of people that surround you, everyone is healthy! But this sentiment is coming from someone that is a faker.

Fall Back

November 6, 2010, was Rachel's 10th birthday. Last year she had a slumber party and it was crazy. This year, I just wanted to have her party somewhere other than my house like we used to. Every year since she was born we had parties at places that host parties for kids. "Let them do all the work" I used to say. But now that she is 10, I feel like I'm running out of time on kid parties for her. I considered Chuck E. Cheese perhaps. "Let them clean up the mess." But she wouldn't have it. Been there done that for her. She wanted something different. And since her birthday fell on a Saturday this year, it was perfect, in her mind, for a sleepover. So I started to think that if the girls were going to trash my house at night anyway, I might as well have the party at my house.

Being a November baby living in CT, she has never had an outdoor party. We had one for Mia years ago, but her birthday is October 21 and you'd be surprised what a difference those two weeks make in weather. But this year we decided we would throw caution to the wind and go with an outdoor party. Everyone would just have to dress warm. As long as it didn't rain, we would be all set.

I started putting together the agenda for the activities. I looked outside and had a streak of brilliance hit me. Now, before you judge me, 1) keep in mind I'm getting old and 2) I live in a forest. I looked out at the yard full of leaves and said to myself, if I'm going to have 10-11 year olds here, I might as well get them to help rake the leaves. Genius, right? I thought so. So I went and bought rakes, tarps, and gloves.

The only thing that would ruin my ingenious plan of free child labor was the weather. At the beginning of the week I started watching the forecast. They were predicting snow flurries for Saturday. That's okay, I thought, they can still rake in the snow. But a few temperature degrees difference and that meant rain. I'm cruel, but I'm not THAT cruel as to make them rake in the rain. So all week I monitored the situation. Not only did it not have to be raining on Saturday, but it couldn't rain the days leading up to Saturday as well because I didn't want the leaves to be wet and heavy. That wouldn't be fun.

It poured Thursday and Friday. I thought I was going to have to cancel the party on Friday and go with the rain date which was Sunday. Come Saturday morning, we went to Rachel's last soccer game in East Lyme. It was freezing. The sky was full of thick black clouds that threatened rain. I wondered throughout the morning if I should call it off and move it to Sunday. But in the middle of the game, a blue streak in the sky started to shine through. I tried to estimate if the blue was heading towards Ledyard or away. At a certain point, I didn't have a choice. It was too late to call it off and we would just have to make do with whatever the weather was going to be.

As it turned out, by 2:00 that day, the weather was absolutely beautiful. The air was crisp, but not cold. The sky was deep blue with no clouds in sight. Perfect.

At 2:00 the party was scheduled to begin. Here is Bluepurr and Swiffur waiting for guests to arrive.

Poor Bluepurr was manhandled for 22 hours by little girls all wanting to hold her and pet her. Sometimes playing tug-of-war with her. She hasn't been the same since. But this one isn't about the cats.

To pull off my work-can-be-fun trickery, I couldn't just hand the rakes to the kids when they got here and say, "Go rake!" No, no, no. This had to be disguised as entertainment somehow. Weeks prior, looking through the Oriental Trading catalog, I decided to go with a scarecrow theme. And this is how it all played out:

The party started inside the house, with each child posing with Rachel in a scarecrow banner as we took pictures. Then they signed the back of the banner with well wishes to Rachel as a keepsake for her. The pictures taken with the birthday girl would be distributed to each child and serve as a party momento.

Next, they decorated frames with foam self-adhesive leaves, to keep with the fall theme. The pictures taken were printed out and inserted into the frames.

A neat party favor I thought.

Then it was time go outside. We all bundled up and went outside to find blue skies and 50 degree weather. It was perfect!

We started with a donut eating contest. I figured if I filled them up with sugar first, I would get more out of them. The video of this event is more amusing, but here are some shots of the donut eating contest.

As Lauren Mikkelson pointed out, the video of this event should be the preview movie at my next Annual Movie Night. She may be right.

Anyway, just when the children were lulled into thinking this was going to be a fun party, this is when I went for the kill...

How to Get Cheap Child Labor in the US

Step 1

There were 10 kids in all. I broke them into 3 teams. I gave each team a head-sized pumpkin and a scarecrow pumpkin decorating kit and told them to work as a team to decorate the best head with what they had. The one with the best decorated head would win free fries from Burger King.

Here are the three heads they came up with:

AKA Curly, Moe, and Larry

Step 2

I gave each team a rake, a tarp and a pair of gloves and told them they had to work together to gather as many leaves as they could, to form the biggest pile. The team that built the biggest pile would win free fries from Burger King. And like a charm, off they went to rake. They all had their own little system. In one team, one person raked the leaves onto the tarp and when it was full, the other two would carry the tarp full of leaves to their pile. Another team took turns raking. The other team skipped the raking part for a while and just picked up bundles of leaves and dropped them onto their tarp. I didn't care how the leaves got moved from point A to point B, just as long as they moved them. Strategically, the piles were placed right next to the spot where I rake all my leaves to every year. (Follow me?) Here are some pictures of the kids working to build their piles:

Step 3

That week, I had gone to the Goodwill store and bought the largest size men's pants I could find. We're talking Jared-the-Subway-guy-BEFORE huge! I dug out a bunch of old shirts I never wear anymore and old shoes from my closet. I put them in a laundry basket outside. I told the teams to pick out the clothing they wanted to build a scarecrow with. Abby Edelman grabbed her set of clothes and went running for the leaf pile her team had built. No, no, no. Stop right there Missy! Or more accurately, at the beginning of the party I had asked the kids what they wanted me to say to get their attention if I wanted them to stop. Ethan Rankowitz suggested, "Ten-hut!". I liked it and went with it. Although when they started to salute me, I must admit, the power did go to my head. Anyway, as Abby went running to her already raked leaves in a pile, I yelled, "Ten-hut!" and they all froze in place. I defined the rules clearer for them. The leaves in the pile that had already been raked to their final destination, I mean their pile, could not be used for this task. "Groan, moan, you're kidding?!" And that was just Dianne saying that! They all got their rakes and started in the back yard to rake more leaves for their scarecrow dummy's stuffing.

Now parents, as you are reading this, you're experiencing one of the following emotions. You're either mad at me for exploiting your child to do work for me under the guise of calling it Rachel's Birthday party, OR you're jealous that YOU didn't think of doing this in your yard!

When the kids were looking weary, and had enough raking, I called time to judge their scarecrows. What would be the prize? You guessed it. Free fries from Burger King. Here is what I had to judge from:

They all worked hard and when all was said and done, they all received a Burger King free fries coupon. Amazing what they will do for fries, isn't it?

We returned inside the house where they washed up and had ice cream cake. The party officially ended at 5:00. But as I mentioned, Rachel wanted a few friends to stay overnight. So once half the kids left, with goody bags in hand...

(Aren't these cute?)

...the other half stayed and more activities took place. We got pizza and watched, "How to Train Your Dragon" on the big screen that I set up in the living room. We blew up air mattresses and the five remaining girls laid quietly watching the movie.

Now you would think that with all that raking they did, they would be exhausted and would want to turn in early, right? Wrong. After the movie was over, I said, "It's 9:00. Time for bed." One of them, I can't remember which one, but if I do remember, she won't be invited back next year, reminded me that it wasn't 9:00 but rather, due to daylight savings time, it was actually only 8:00. Holy mother of God! An extra hour of this?! I was ready for bed 3 hours ago!

Okay, so we'll watch another movie. And actually it was the movie I had intended for them to watch anyway. Rachel and I had recently watched the 2010 remake of "The Karate Kid" and it got me thinking about the original movie. So I purchased it with the full intent of the girls watching it. Hearing that it was indeed 8:00, not 9:00, we made some popcorn. (Lauren HAD to have popcorn. She reminded me it was on the invitation. Funny. She's a string bean sized kid who did nothing but ask me what we were going to eat next. Definitely going through a growth spurt. She almost ate me out of house and home. I loved it!)

We watched the Ralph Macchio version of the movie. Parents, if you are reading this, here is where I owe you an apology. My memory of "The Karate Kid" original movie was slightly off. The movie was rated "PG" but had some colorful language in it. The first time he said the word "ass" none of the girls said anything. But I heard it loud and clear, and if I did, I knew THEY did. I let it slide hoping it wouldn't make them go home and call their siblings an ass. "Where did you hear that word?" "At Rachel's house." Ugh! Then he used the word "bastard" and I almost had to stop the movie in fear of what else might happen. I guess "PG" was different back in 1984. The girls mostly ignored it, but did mention it at the end. There was nothing inappropriate, thank goodness, other than the swearing in a few places. So if they mutter under their breath, calling you a bastard because you told them to make their bed, you know where it came from. Damn Karate kid.

Then it was lights out. Tell me. Do they look tired?

The next day they woke up at 7:30 a.m., which was actually 6:30 a.m. because I had forgotten to reset the clock back. Drats! I fed them breakfast. Well, I fed Lauren breakfast because those were the first words out of her mouth. I made homemade almond blueberry ginger croissants and Dianne made bacon. It was yummy.

I had told their parents to come pick them up at noon so we had a lot of time to kill. They played Wii for a while. But you'll never guess what they really wanted to do. They wanted to go outside and build a pile of leaves to jump in. "YES! We can rake more leaves! Let's do it!" And so we did. They got the rakes and gloves and we all built a big leaf pile. Here are some of the pictures of them jumping in and just having good old-fashioned fun. No electronic games. No big elaborate bouncy houses. No glitz and glamour of flashing lights at Chuck E. Cheese. Nope. Just jumping in leaves.

Even I reverted back in my mind to when I was ten and took a dive myself. Paying for it this week, but it made the girls laugh and it was fun.

My Kaneclusions: The clocks weren't the only thing falling back last weekend. We all fell back in time with watching the original "Karate Kid" movie; I fell back in time, remembering ten years ago, having my wonderful daughter and wondered what I would be doing without her in my life (nothing worth any meaning); and the girls literally and physically fell back into a pile of leaves as if they never knew how much fun that could be.

Falling back, like playing the "trust" game:

When "The Karate Kid" was over, I reviewed the movie with the girls and asked what they thought. Particularly, I reviewed the part when Mr. Miyagi makes Daniel Son "Wax on and wax off" the car, and makes him paint the fence and the house. Initially, Daniel thinks that Mr. Miyagi is just using him to do all the chores for the older man. When in essence, Mr Miyagi was teaching him the movements he needed to know for karate. All learning lessons.

Me: "...And see kids, when I had you raking my lawn this weekend, it wasn't for MY benefit, it was for YOUR benefit. You learned how to work as a team. And learned that nature can be fun, right? Am I right?"

Them: "Yeah, whatever, Miss Kane..................ass."

In all seriousness, one of the kids called this week and asked if she could come over again and rake more leaves and jump in piles. "Why, YES! You're always welcome!...Should we call you when our driveway needs shoveling? I mean, when we want to build a snowman?"

P.S. Parents, if you're offended by any of this, it seems you, too, could learn a lesson. Feel free to come here and rake the leaves that your kid didn't get. I'll buy you fries.

Maybe my favorite picture of all - my double digit daughter.

Dear Rachel, Dianne is Squirrelly

Ten years ago, I was in the Backus Hospital waiting to bring my newborn home for the first time. I showered, did my hair, and put on some makeup for the first time in days. It was then Rachel's turn. All alone in the hospital room, I unpacked the outfit that I had chosen for him/her (I didn't know what she was until she was born, so I packed a neutral color outfit for the baby so that no matter what it was, I would be all set.) I laid the outfit on the bed. The nurse brought her to me, all nice and swaddled, as only nurses in hospitals can do. Of course, you don't find out how talented they are until you bring your baby home and try to swaddle the baby yourself. Even though they show you in the hospital. "Yeah, yeah. How hard can it be? Wrap the baby up in the blanket. Yeah, yeah, I got it. Now, for the love of God, please let me sleep." Anyway, they brought the 3 day old child to me so that I could get her dressed to go home. An exciting and scary thought indeed. Ever so gently I unswaddled(?) the infant. I changed her tiny diaper and put on her first layer, which was a Onesie. (Did you know that the name Onesie is actually a trademark? We in the US use it as a generic term as if Onesie describes the bodysuit itself. It's actually a brand name and you can read more about that by clicking here. I guess this would be similar to asking someone to pass you a Kleenex. Kleenex is a brand name. But everyone knows that when you ask for a Kleenex, you are referring to a tissue, no matter what brand is in the box. Same thing with the Onesie.) Anyway, I maneuver her little arms and legs through the Onesie without breaking any bones. Phew. She's ready to go home now. No she isn't. It's November and it's freezing outside. Next layer. A shirt and pants suit that someone undoubtedly gave me at my shower. This outfit is new but I pre-cleaned it by washing it first, disinfecting it, and I can't remember if I actually boiled it to sterilize it or not. You know how careful we are with newborns, trying to protect them from every illness we can. This particular outfit is prepared and is germ-free. Therefore, this is what she will wear home. I dress her and she's all ready to go.

Exhausted, I pause for a moment to take a break. I call Dianne who is on her way to my house to get my van that has the car seat installed in it. Little did I know, while I was dressing the baby, Dianne's intention was to go to my house and decorate it for Rachel's first arrival home. When I called her to see what time she would be coming to pick us up, she gave me some lame excuse of why she wasn't at the hospital yet. She told me she would be at the hospital in 20 minutes.

During that time, I brushed Rachel's thick head of black hair; fed her a bottle; burped her; and when 15 minutes had passed, I started getting her bundled up for her first trip outside in the elements. First I put a hand knit sweater on her, talking to her and saying stupid little things to her in babyese, "We're going home now. Yes we are. Wait till you see where you're going to live. You're going to love it there. And if you don't, in 18 years you can move out. Okay? Okay. And Mia is there and she can't wait till you get there. Yes she is. Remember Mia? The cute little blond girl that came to see you 2 days ago to visit? Yes, her. Yeah, she's in school right now, but she'll be home later..." I look at my watch. "Dianne should be here any minute. Let's get your coat on, shall we?" I get her into her winter body bag (What? That's what it looks like.) I sit on the bed and wait. A half an hour goes by. No Dianne. I pack up all my things into my luggage and move my gift baskets that I received closer to the door. One less thing to do when Dianne gets here.

More time goes by and still no Dianne. I unzip the baby's jacket because I'm sure she's baking in all the layers of clothes that I have put her in. I call Dianne on her cell phone. (No texting back then. Hadn't been invented yet.) I get her voicemail. "Where are you? We're all ready and waiting. Call me." I hang up. I strip Rachel down to change her diaper again because now it's been an hour since I changed it last. In the middle of dressing her back up, the hospital phone rings. I pick up.

"Hello?" I say, praying it's not Dianne telling me her car broke down or that she's been in an accident. Not because I particularly cared at that moment, but rather because I can't stay another night in the hospital. The hospital rules are worse than a hotel. Their check out times are strictly adhered to. All I could picture was Rachel and I sitting out on the curb in a wheelchair in the cold with nowhere to go. "Welcome to my life, Rachel!"

"Hi, it's me." Oh good, it is Dianne and at least she's alive.

"Where are you?"

"You're not going to believe this."

Okay, I'm no mind reader, but I can tell by the nervous, squirrelly nature of her voice that this isn't going to be good.

"What?" I ask, not sure I really want to know.

"Well, I'm in the house, and..."

"And, AND??"

"And there's a squirrel in here. And it's running around frantically."


"I opened the garage door and came in and saw Darby staring at something. (Darby was my first useless Persian cat. Useless, I tell you! They're all useless!) Then, all of a sudden, a squirrel jumped across the room out of nowhere. I am FREAKing out."

"Dianne, if you didn't want to pick me up from the hospital, you could have just said. I could have asked someone else. You don't have to make up a story--"

"No, Sharon. I'm not kidding. There's a squirrel in here. Do you know how I can get it out?...Oh my god, he just jumped up on the aquarium and knocked down a vase. (Expletive.) What do I do? I'm taking Darby and getting out of here." They go outside and Dianne puts Darby in my van. Useless cat! She should have just set him free.

"Well, I can't very well bring the baby home with a squirrel in the house, now can I? I'm not Tarzan."

"What do I do???"

In walks a nurse who gives me a look of "Why are you still here? We need this room for another patient." I quickly blurt at her, "There's a squirrel in my house and we don't know how to get it out." "Sure you do. I hear that all the time" and looks at her watch. Seriously, this all was like something from a bad, poorly written sitcom.

"Dianne, can you trap it in a box or something?"

"No. I'm not going back in there. Every time it sees something move, the thing freaks out and jumps to another location. I called your sister-in-law to come help and she's bundling up the kids to come help me get this thing out of here."

"Have you tried calling animal control in Ledyard?"

"Yup, they don't handle it. They told me to call a wildlife trapper, which I did, and he said to open all the doors so it can run out."

"Did you try throwing something at it?"

"No, it's breaking stuff every time it moves, runs, jumps. Oh wait, I hear Gary. I'll call you back." She hangs up on me.

Gary was my next door neighbor who was quite used to "the city girls next door". When I first moved into the house, in the first month, I was raking leaves and came upon a gargantuan garden snake. I dropped my rake and went screaming to him next door for help. He came over, and upon looking at it, laughed at me. It was no bigger than a pencil, but in my mind, it was a python. Gary whisked it away on the rake to his own yard saying it's good to have them around, they eat mice. "Have at it, Buddy. He's all yours!"

So when Dianne came running over to him screaming there's a squirrel in the house, he wasn't surprised. He picked up a fishing net that happened to be lying in between our two properties. (Why was it there? Who knows.) He came in and assessed the situation. He tried to catch it in the net but couldn't. The squirrel jumped off the top of the aquarium and headed out. Its first attempt to get out was unsuccessful, slamming itself into the glass that surrounds the front door. A second or two later, after he came to, he found the opening and ran for his life out the door, leaving a trail of devastation behind him. Did you know that a frightened squirrel defecates and urinates everywhere?

Meanwhile, back at the Backus, I had disrobed Rachel, fed her again, and stalled for time. I was exhausted and just wanted to lie down. But I didn't know when the squirrel situation would be resolved or what time my ride would be there to pick me up. It could be any second or the next day. I had no way of telling. So all I could do was to sit and wait, and hope that security wouldn't come and kick me out.

It all worked out in the end. Dianne came to get us and we all made it home safely. Although, I must admit, I was quite skeeved upon bringing my newborn baby into a rodent-filled, possibly rabid environment. But alas, I succumbed to bringing her into the house, feeling she was safe within her sterile clothing that would protect her from anything. And my house got the Clorox treatment by Dianne in an effort to clean up the squirrel dung.

Now that would be a good story all unto itself, right? And I could stop there, but guess what? There's more!

File this one under "Strange, but true".

This weekend was Rachel's 10th Birthday. It's hard to believe that 10 years ago this weekend, I was in that hospital giving birth to my beautiful daughter. To commemorate the day, I decided to throw her a house party again this year with her friends. (Because last year's slumber party wasn't enough. The mind is kind, in that, it helps you to forget the pain. Clearly, this is what has happened in my case.) Anyway, unlike last year, I decided to have an outdoor party this time. I'll tell you all about that in my next week's blog. But for this blog, you just need to know that it was going to be outside.

I live in a forest. At this time of year, all the leaves have mostly fallen and it's an incredible amount of work. So in preparation for the party, some leaves had to be raked up off the driveway and the decks where the party would take place. The day of the party, which by the way was Rachel's actual birthday, Dianne was outside raking the deck when Rachel came in the house and said, "Mom, Dianne said you need to come outside right away."

"Oh great, now what?"

I walk outside to find Dianne frozen in her tracks standing on the deck.

"Oh brother, what is it?" I'm thinking a bear? a snake? a dog? (If you know Dianne, you know she HATES dogs and that's something that could paralyze her if one approached her unexpectedly.)

"Come here and look at this," she calls out to me.

I walk up on the deck to find a garbage can laying on its side. Just outside of the garbage can is a puddle of water. The garbage can had been collecting water in it for the last few months since the summer, and now the water was all over the deck, along with some wet leaves scattered around it as well. Upon further investigation into the leaves, there, lying lifeless, was a perfectly intact squirrel that had obviously drowned at some point in the garbage can. It looked like it had been frozen or stuffed by a taxidermist.

"It's dead. What's the big deal? What do you want me to do with it?" I said. I'm no longer the "city girl" I once was. I can even kill spiders with my bare hands these days. You just get used to country living after a while. Anyway, all skeeved, Dianne says she can dispose of it if I just stay outside with her while she does it. I guess she needed me there just in case through some divine intervention the thing comes back to life. She goes and gets a shovel to use to discard it into the woods. But as she's doing it, I remembered the above story and it occurred to me that, 10 years to the DAY almost, we were dealing with yet another squirrel story revolving around the birth of Rachel!!! How weird is that? At no other time do I have squirrel stories!

Not only that, but it was a perfect photo op for this blog! "Dianne, stop right there while I get my camera!"


I can't (and don't) make this stuff up!

My Kaneclusion: I'm not sure which one has the curse with squirrels, Rachel or Dianne? But I do know that from now on, on Rachel's birthday, November 6th, I will have a heightened sensitivity to where squirrels are...especially if I'm driving in the car with Dianne. That'll be the next thing.