I think as parents, we expose our kids to the things we know. In my case, one would think that my daughter is exposed to my writing and therefore she writes. (I write this blog that nobody reads. But it doesn’t matter because it brings me joy to make the few people that do read it laugh.) But I can honestly say that I have never sat Rachel down and told her she needs to write. Nor has she read much of what I write. She has read so few of my writings (mostly due to her age and the inappropriate nature of the things I write about), that she couldn’t possibly get her writing abilities from me. And yet somehow, she loves to write. At recess time, she used to take a notebook and pen outside with her and write plays that the other kids could perform. Or make up games that the kids could play. She has written story after story. I have 3 totes full of books and cartoons she has written and she is only ten years old. I would have to say that it is her favorite pastime. But did I do that to her somehow? Why, of all things, does she love to write? She just does. So is it biological? Did it flow through my umbilical cord into her somehow? Did I somehow consume ink and paper when I was pregnant? I don’t know. But to see her writing her stories in Word documents, is surreal at times.
As a young adult, I loved to go out dancing. I spent 6 out of 7 nights a week dancing in the clubs. I have never told this to my daughter. (Mostly because I don't want her to know how often I hung out in bars!) But if you ever try to have a conversation with my daughter, you will notice that she can't stand still because she is constantly dancing. She constantly has the music in her.
And to see my Rachel at the age of 3 with a mouse in her hand, drawing pictures on the computer. And drawing, by hand, cartoon characters with explicit detail, makes me think that most of this is genetic. My father was a draftsman for the State of CT and would draw maps by hand, with ink pens. This was before computers, CAD drawings and Mapquest. I have been told I can draw as well. So it's natural that she can draw.
So is what we have to offer in life just simply genetic? If my parents had had passion for something, would I have had it too? Are our lives formed by what our parents instill in us? I hope not. I want so much more for Rachel.
I don't know what Rachel will become in her life. But I do know that, as her parent, I want to afford her all the possibilities that I never had. I want to expose her to as many things as I can humanly find possible that will help her in finding her passion in life. I was never encouraged to find what I truly love to do in my life. Instead, I work at a job that I’m good at, that pays me well, but that I have no passion for. It’s a chore to drag my butt to work every day and I just feel like there has to be a better way to live. What I’ve noticed about happy people is that they do what they love. How lucky are those that discover that at an early age and are given the opportunities to go after their passions. They say that if a person doesn’t find their passion by the age of nine, they won’t find it at all. I don’t want Rachel floundering through life like I have, wondering what to do with her life. I want her to find her passion, so that when the rest of life’s challenges get her down, like losing jobs, suffering through bad relationships (we’ve all had ‘em!), being broke, getting sick, whatever the case may be, she will at least be able to cling to something she loves. This is my fervent hope for my daughter.
So in that effort, she takes piano lessons, jazz, tap, ballet and hip hop dance lessons. She plays soccer in the fall. I encourage her writing and reading. I‘ve encouraged her to audition for the school play. I work full time and find as much time as I can to allow her the exposure she needs to find herself…to find her passion. All with the hopes that she will have a happy and content adult life. Even if that passion is foreign to me. I want it to be her own.
Okay, so last summer I signed her up for a week at Performance Art Camp that was taking place in Ledyard. The program has been there every year but Rachel has never been able to attend since it lets out at 3:00 and I work until 4:30. But this past summer, Dianne had surgery and was home recuperating and offered to pick her up if I signed her up for it. So I did. The opportunity presented itself and I took it. I didn’t have any expectations of her abilities; I just thought it would be a fun thing for her to do. Mia had always been the one that had the flair for drama. She acted in many plays and was quite good. And I’m not sure if Rachel wanted to go to this particular camp because she had been exposed to it by watching Mia on stage or what. But she certainly took to it and as it turned out, she was exceptional on stage. She did a comedy piece called, “The Ugly Step Sisters” based on the Cinderella story. It was a dialogue between her and another girl pretending to be Cinderella’s step sisters and it was funny. I was amazed at her performance. She had exceptional comedic timing, and the audience, which consisted of the parents of the kids in the camp, were all laughing at her delivery of the material. It was like watching a person I hadn’t known existed. She wasn’t nervous; she had remembered all her lines; had not stammered once; and was quite convincing.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Proud mom being biased. Maybe that’s true. But when the performance was over, the instructors took me aside and told me that auditions were happening for the Performing Arts Youth Collective (PAYC) at the Bushnell in Hartford and that I should take Rachel to the audition. They hadn’t done that with any other kid so I started to take note.
I said to myself, first, if she auditions and doesn’t get in, can she (and I) handle the rejection? And then I did what every other parent that works does. I burdened myself with thoughts of if she does get in, how am I going to get her to Hartford on a Monday evening once a month? Hartford is just so far away. (And this is where Dianne says, “Oh really? I do it every day!) Anyway, I asked Rachel if she wanted to audition and she said yes. I decided that I would take her for the audition and let fate take it from there. If she was chosen, I would work it out somehow. I wrote about the audition and if you want to read about that process, click here:
To sum it up, for the audition, she wrote her own song and performed it for Michael Lamb, the CEO of the Performing Arts Program. After the audition, Rachel was quite excited and came out and said confidently and nonchalantly, “He liked me”. I asked how she knew that. She said, “He smiled at me the whole time.”
A week later, I received an email stating that she had been chosen. Oh great! I thought. Now I have to actually follow through on this.
Over the last 6 months, on Monday nights, I have managed to pick her up from school at 4:30 and get her to Hartford for 5:30. It turned out to be quite enjoyable because we would chat the whole way. And once we got there, I would drop Rachel off at the Bushnell and Dianne would meet me there and we would go out to dinner. It was like having a babysitter for an hour and a half. Score! We enjoyed going to J. Gilbert’s in Glastonbury, J Restaurant, Hartford, Morton’s Steak house (overpriced and the bartender was incredibly rude – wouldn’t go back there!). This little excursion to Hartford once a month actually turned into something I looked forward to doing. Except for the time that my car broke down on the way and I kept losing my steering and brakes because it kept stalling while I was driving! Driving around downtown Hartford, I got lost and was in fear that my car was just going to die in some bad neighborhood. To compound matters, the roads were slick from the ice and snow and every time I applied the brake, we slid. Rachel at one point had the audacity to say to me during this panicked, are-we-going-to-survive-this moment, “Mom, we’re going to be late.” Out of sheer frustration and panic over the situation, I lashed out at her. Saying stupid things like, “You’re lucky I’m bringing you. I’m taking the chance of driving this car that is not working right, IN THE SNOW, and you’re worried about being late??!!!” Immediately, she started to apologize. I got her to the Bushnell and Dianne met me there and we tried to fix the car. Mechanics, we are not. So we took her car and went to get a bite to eat. After all was said and done, when I picked up Rachel after, she thanked me for bringing her every month and for everything I do for her. I apologized for yelling at her and told her that I was just frightened over what was happening with the car. We hugged it out and from that day forward, she has thanked me, without prompting, for bringing her to Hartford. She’s such a good kid.
Okay, so by the third session with the PAYC, she was given the assignment of finding a song or a monologue to perform at the end of the year recital. The theme was Broadway hits and she was to find a Broadway song that she wanted to sing along with the sheet music. Or she could look through a catalog of monologues that the PAYC has, or look online for a monologue that she would like to perform.
Most parents at this juncture would look at the book and say “pick one”. I, on the other hand, sat down at my laptop and started typing up a monologue, one that was specifically designed for Rachel. In much the same way as I write this blog, I typed the words and thoughts that came into my head. And similarly to this blog, I never know if it is funny or if it’s just me thinking something is funny. With this particular monologue though, the most important thing to me was how Rachel would receive it. It was about her and her hearing loss. I would have to say that honestly, up to this point in her life, we had never joked around about her hearing loss. At times, it’s such a non-issue to us, that sometimes I don’t even think she knows she has a disability. No lie. She’s never been treated any different because of it. She’s never been teased because of it (how lucky is that!), and because she has been this way since birth, she doesn’t know anything else. So to actually joke about this, would be unchartered territory for us both.
I wrote the monologue and can honestly say that I was nervous when I handed it to her to read. She would be my harshest critic or my biggest fan. Would she be hurt? Would she laugh? Would she hand it back to me and say, ”I’m not doing that, Mom.” Would she go running into the bathroom and lock herself in, crying, “What do you mean I’m ‘different’?” All of this was unknown to me. But of course, I hadn’t factored in that she is MY daughter. And with that, she inherited my sense of humor. She read it and at the end, started laughing. Then her expression said it all. With complete surprise, she asked, “You can write, Mom? That is so funny!” I hugged her and told her of my apprehension of letting her read it. She assured me that she thought it was funny. From that point forward, she had chosen what I had written for her as her monologue that she would work on and perform.
The next step was to get it approved by the PAYC to actually get permission for it to be her piece. Being new, I didn’t know if they would reject it, or if it had to be an existing monologue in the book, or, God forbid, they didn’t think it was funny. The night I dropped her off and she had to introduce the monologue to the group I was nervous for her. I think at dinner I actually had two glasses of wine to calm my nerves. Not only was I nervous for her for having to read it to everyone. But could I handle the rejection of someone saying that my writing sucked and she needed to find a “real” piece? I suffered through the hour and a half and upon picking her up, the CEO, when releasing the kids to the parents, made a point of looking over at me and whispered, “That was funny!”
I felt like I had just won the lottery. Wow. How so few words could make me so ecstatic. I asked Rachel how it went and she said that everyone in the room thought it was funny. And from that point forward, the monologue that she was to work on and perform at the end of the year would be the monologue I had written for her.
Now, granted, her audience for those 6 months were the rest of the PAYC which consisted of other 6-18 year olds who want to be in the performing arts. They weren’t about to tell her that her monologue was stupid. It’s a very supportive type of atmosphere. So did we really know if the monologue was funny or not? Not really. I do know that every time she rehearsed it with me, I would laugh. Between what I wrote on paper and her acting it out, it never got old. It was just funny.
I’m not sure that everyone can understand this or appreciate what a risk it is to try to be funny. At times, when I write what I think is funny, I always wonder how others will receive it. Especially in this blog, where there is no immediate satisfaction of hearing people laugh. And so I have to wait to see if people think what I wrote is funny by making a comment. And most times, nobody does comment. So, was what I wrote funny or not? It can be very unrewarding at times.
So, to hear that the kids in the PAYC thought that what I wrote was funny and they laughed, and Rachel heard and saw them laugh? I’ll take it!!
About halfway through, the CEO told us that all acts needed to be no more than 2 minutes long. I timed Rachel and the act I had written was 3 minutes. Unfortunately, I had to cut it down and take out some important lines. This had an impact on the humor and I was quite concerned that having to cut things out would affect the outcome. Plus, Rachel had to relearn the script by leaving some of the key elements out. But like a trooper, she did.
Rachel rehearsed and rehearsed to Dianne and I over the last few months. Sometimes nailing it, sometimes not. Sometimes remembering her lines, and sometimes not. As the time grew closer, I became more nervous for her. Up until a week prior to the recital, I hadn’t really considered the fact that this whole thing could be a flop. I’m not sure why I hadn’t considered it. I suppose if I had, I would have pulled the plug on it and made her do something more tried and true instead. But the week before the show, I started to have severe panic attacks over it. What if it’s not funny? What happens if she forgets her lines and then it won’t be funny at all? What happens if she gets nervous and goes blank? This was not normal preshow jitters. Rachel has performed on stage since she was 2 ½ years old at dance recitals; in school plays; she stands up at All School events and never messes up; she has written, directed and performed in a play that she and her friends performed at school; and more recently, she delivered a speech to the CT State Board of Education that was poised, funny, and well spoken for a ten year old. But notably, I have never been as nervous as I was for her the week before the PAYC show. A monologue is a difficult thing because if you mess it up, there is no one else to blame. It’s just her and the audience and if she forgot her lines or didn’t deliver the lines in the way that was rehearsed, it wouldn’t be funny.
And if it wasn’t funny, who would be to blame? THE WRITER! More importantly, THE MOTHER, who sent her daughter out on stage to fail! Holy crap! Why this all didn’t occur to me prior to that week before is beyond me! I guess having the show within sight, I started to realize all the things that could go wrong. The pressure was phenomenal.
I tried not to let Rachel know how I was feeling. She was under her own self-inflicted pressure and having her own anxiety over it. I didn’t want to compound it by letting her know I was nervous too.
The day before the performance, I took her to the Mohegan Sun to audition for the Connecticut Sun Munchkins. This was a hip hop audition and she worked really hard at the audition. The audition consisted of a dance that had a lot of quick moves and they had gone over it several times. By the end of the audition, she was wiped out. She started getting glassy-eyed and when I felt her head, she felt like she had a fever. She started having the sniffles. I was talking to a parent and Rachel started to cry (an odd thing all unto itself). She said she just wanted to go home and get in bed.
Oh great! The day before the performance, and now she’s sick!! She got all nasally and she didn’t look like her bright, cheery self. I was reminded of how when I was young, I always got sick right before the school plays. Strange. I didn’t know that this was hereditary and could be passed down to my poor child.
That night, I pumped her full of liquids, chicken soup, clementines for vitamin c, slathered her in Vicks, made her take Motrin, and all the things I could think of to make her feel better for the next day. I had less than 24 hours to nurse her back to health. Otherwise, surely the performance was going to be a disaster. Not only that, but sometimes, not all times, but sometimes, people with hearing impairments sound nasally due to learning to talk through low quality hearing aids. My daughter typically has overcome that with her speech. But with a cold, she sounds just like someone that hasn’t learned how to speak correctly. This presented its own issues in the delivery of the monologue.
The night before the performance, lying in bed with her quietly by my side, comforting her, stroking her hair to help make her feel better, handing her tissues to blow her nose, she looked up at me and in a very serious way, she said, “Mommy?”
And for the first time in 6 months she asked, “What happens if nobody laughs?”
My heart broke instantly.
What did I do? What did I do this for? Did I set my own daughter up for failure? She has the same concerns I have! How do I answer this?
Keep in mind that up to this point, 6 months into this thing, Rachel had never expressed any concern or doubts over her performance or the monologue that I had written. She never uttered a word of wanting to do anything else. And she never questioned hers or my sense of humor. But I think that, like me, all of a sudden, we started to picture the worse case scenarios.
I held her tight in my arms and I said, “Rachel, you’re going to do a great job. Don’t you worry about that. All you can do is get out there on that stage tomorrow night and give it all you have and do it the way we have practiced it. If people laugh, great. If they don’t, you know that me and Aunt Gloria (who has a very loud, uproarious laugh) will laugh louder. We’ll laugh enough for the entire audience, ok?” She smiled at the notion of my sister and I laughing loudly, nodded and snuggled in.
The pressure in my heart was almost too much to bear. I prayed for snow the next day and for cancellation of the show.
That night I had answered her, but all I wanted to do was cry. For the first time, she had questioned whether this monologue was a good idea. I kept asking myself, how could I have put her in this position? She is so eager to do a good job. So eager to please me and perform my stupid writings!! How could I be so self-absorbed as to think that my writing ability is of the level of being performed by anybody, much less my own daughter! The fate of her self-esteem was left up to a crowd of people in a room that neither of us had ever met before. It’s one thing to take chances at being funny in this blog or at a party. It’s a completely different thing to subject your daughter to delivering your humor and expect complete strangers to join in and laugh.
Not only that, but for the first time I had realized that our mother/daughter relationship was at jeopardy. I knew that if this was a flop, she would never, NEVER, trust my creative opinion again.
When I was 10 or so, my school, St. Mary’s, had a poster contest to solicit new students to the school. My father helped me with my poster. It was made with colored popcorn kernels that we meticulously glued over the words on the poster. I distinctly remember coming up with the slogan with my father. The pastor of the church at the time was Father Morrisey. I had wanted to say on the poster that “Father Morrisey invites you to…” But my father thought it would be a good idea to capitalize on the 1945 old time movie, “The Bells of St. Mary’s” and use the character's name instead. “Everyone knows who Father O’Malley is”, he said. So the poster read, “Father O’Malley invites you to…” I trusted that he knew better. I entered the poster in the contest and I didn’t win. Matter of fact, everyone after kept asking me who Father O’Malley was? Some people went as far as to correct me by telling me what our pastor’s name was. “It’s Father Morrisey, stupid!” When you go to a Catholic school, knowing who the leader of your school is is kind of important. What a flop and what a disaster. And I never trusted my father’s opinion again. Right or wrong, I never did.
So here I am, giving my daughter words to say in front of complete strangers, hoping that they will find my sense of humor humorous, and subjecting my daughter, my own flesh and blood, to humiliation and to flop on stage. The only people she knew were me, Dianne, my sister and brother-in-law and her lifelong friend, Sabrina, who came to support her. Being all the way in Hartford, (again, Dianne chimes in and says, “I DO IT EVERY DAY!”), I guess I can understand why others didn’t want to drive all that way to come see her. But I think on some level, we need to somehow get better at supporting our kids. In reciprocation, we will be going to Sabrina’s music concert. Those who don’t have extended families, like grandparents, aunts and uncles, et cetera, that can come, need the support of their friends.
Anyway, had Rachel questioned whether people would laugh or not prior to this day, I can almost guarantee that I would have pulled the plug on the whole idea and had her sing some song instead like the other kids. But being the day before, it was too late for any changes. Too late to turn back now. We both knew it. We would go forward and she would do the best she could. I told her that I would love her no matter how it turned out. I think that put her a little at ease. I told her just to have fun with it, be in the moment, and if she got stuck, to just look at me and perform it to me like we had been doing since I wrote it.
As luck would have it, the next day, Rachel woke up feeling so much better. No fever. Just the sniffles. I gave her an antihistamine and she was fine. She was still a little stuffy but she was so much better than she had been the night before that I felt that this was the best that anyone could hope for.
I picked her up from school and took her home. She took a shower and got dressed. My mother had given Rachel a dress for Christmas. It wasn’t a dress that she could wear to school but was more fancy. Come time for the recital at the Bushnell, this dress had been hanging in her closet and was perfect for the occasion. I gave her some face embellishments (“see Rachel Quotes”), and packed everything she needed. We went and picked up her friend Sabrina and off we went to Hartford.
We were asked to come earlier than everyone else so that we could work with the sound system guy and hook up Rachel’s FM device to the stage sound system so that she could hear. We arrived early, got that all set up and were allowed to put our coats on the chairs that we wanted as seat savers. Naturally, we took the front row, center!! (There are some advantages of having a child with a disability. They are far and few between but when they present themselves, we take advantage of them.) All the other parents had to drop off their kids and wait outside or downstairs in the Bushnell for an hour. Due to the sound system, we were able to stay upstairs and watch as the kids rehearsed their grand entrance and exit. It was nice to be working with a company that took Rachel’s hearing the show so seriously. This was a comfort to me. (A big shout out to Michael and all the staff!)
I’m not going to lie to you. I was a nervous freaking wreck. Again, this is not the first time that Rachel has performed on stage. Several times, matter of fact, I have had to go through this. But this time was different because, let’s face it. MY creativity was on the line this time. And if it bombed, we would both be disappointed.
I’ll leave it here for now. Next week, come back to My Kaneclusions to see the video of her performance at the Bushnell.
Kidding. I know what you all want to see. Actually, if you have read up to this point I would be amazed. I know you just want to see the video. Most of you skipped the story and scrolled to this spot. I know. So without further ado, here is Rachel Kane’s comedy debut that was held on March 21, 2011 at the Bushnell in Hartford, CT. Written and sweated out by yours truly. Click here: PAYC
Do not read on until you watch the video. The video is only 6 minutes long. Watch it then come back here.
Rachel did an exceptional job. Not because I’m her mother and I say so. But listen to the crowd as they laugh. Parents and others came up to me after the show and told me how special and how FUNNY it was. With some, I shared that I had written it. The look on one of their faces looked like I was lying about that. I suppose that was a compliment in some odd way. Michael Lamb’s mother works at the PAYC but had not seen Rachel’s monologue up to that point. After seeing the show, what she said was, (and keep in mind she sees lots of talent coming through those doors), “Wow, she did a great job! What comedic timing she has!”
So many people stopped Rachel on the way out and told her what a great job she did. It made us both feel so good. She had nailed it! And most importantly, her respect for my opinion had increased. Score all around!
I can’t really put into words the level of emotion there is when you and your child work on a project and it turns out to be a success. Euphoria just doesn’t quite cut it. I walked around for the next few days like I was walking on cloud nine. Better than any drug I’ve ever taken (and there have been a few). :-)
After the show, I asked Rachel where she wanted to go to dinner to celebrate what a great job she did. She said, "All those nights you dropped me off and I couldn't go to J. Gilbert's, that's where I want to go tonight." And so we did.
My Kaneclusions: This may not turn out to be her passion in life. Nobody knows what the future holds. But what happens if it does? What would have happened if I had said, "No, Hartford is too far away" and didn't expose her to this? Both of us would have missed out on this opportunity!
Getting back to asking ourselves as parents are we meant to be parents? After that performance, I can honestly say that it is abundantly clear that I was meant solely for the purpose of being Rachel’s Mom and she was solely meant to be my daughter. Me, writing, and her performing what I wrote, was nothing short of symbiosis. (A symbiotic relationship is one that thrives on mutual existence. For example, clownfish and anemones have symbiosis. The anemone receives protection from polyp-eating fish, like butterfly fish, which the clownfish chases away. The anemone also gets the fertilizer from the feces of the clownfish. In return, the clownfish gets protection from the anemone by hiding within its tentacles. The tentacles normally kill off prey, but for some unknown reason, the poison does not affect the clownfish. It is a near-perfect symbiosis. They both benefit from living with each other.)
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. I’m the clownfish giving my daughter my “feces” to perform. You may have a point. But if it propels her into finding her passion, which seems to be performing on stage in some capacity, then so be it. I will continue to write my crap and give it to her to perform, for as long as she will let me. The joy we experienced together that night is only shared by few. Our talents merged to form 2 minutes of entertainment that people other than our friends and relatives enjoyed. There is nothing better than that. Nothing.
That night, I felt the closest to a symbiotic relationship I had ever experienced. I wrote, she performed it, and either way, I was going to protect her. But thank God, as it turned out, I didn’t have to protect her at all. She aced it, and not only did she ace it, but people came up to her after and told her how special her performance was. Being in this moment with her was like seeing a clownfish in the tentacles within an anemone. They coexist in a beautiful, harmonic way in their environment, feeding off each other’s natural talents. Symbiosis.
After watching the video, if you don’t comment on how well she did, don’t be shocked if my poisonous tentacles reach out and touch you!
To see pictures, please click here.
at the Bushnell in Hartford, CT.
Mr. Michael Lamb, CEO of the Performing Arts Program
I haven't written about the cats in a while so this is going to be about them. I want to start out by asking, did you know that when male cats get neutered, they can still, well, you know? They can! I came home one day from work to find Swiffur having his way with Bluepurr. I was horrified. I know I got her to keep him company, but I never expected they'd be doing that! Batting a few catnip toys around together, chasing each other around the house, pouncing at each other, but certainly not THAT!
I was tormented for a week on what to do about this. Do I let the two of them have their fun? I mean, Bluepurr can't get pregnant because Swiffur is fixed, so what the heck, right? But on the other hand, something about it just seems so...wrong. And even if I wanted to do something about it, what exactly could I do? Do they sell chastity belts for cats?
Not coming up with an option on how to control the situation, (other than selling one of them or locking them up in separate rooms which seems mean), I have allowed them to have kitty coitus in my house. It seems to be working out for both of them so who am I to stop it.
I draw the line at this though. I came home to find them engaging in, well, um, how do I say it, um, S & M I think. Did you know that cats like kitty bondage? Me either. But this is what I came home to. Things must have gotten out of hand:
What is Bluepurr doing? Does she think she's Lady Gaga going to the Grammy's?
Actually, that's a mask that I bought for Swiffur because Petco uses one when they trim his claws. I trim Bluepurr's claws and she doesn't seem to mind me doing it. She is so easy going, you can do anything to her. (Including putting this mask on her!) But Swiffur, on the other hand, he has learned how to compensate for not having front claws by using his rear legs and claws and he has left a bloody trail behind him. So I bought the mask to try to see if I can trim his nails. (Especially if they're going to be fooling around, he needs to keep his nails clipped for her sake.)
All of this got me thinking that if they are "dating", or whatever it is that they do here every day when we all leave the house, that they should celebrate Valentine's Day too. So I put together a little video that shows what they did on Valentine's Day. (God knows, I wasn't going to post a video of me getting a massage or going in the pool, so this will have to suffice.)
Disclaimer: No cats were hurt in the making of this video. Humans? Yes. Cats, no.
This video is rated "R" for sexual innuendo, adult positions, and grinding, inappropriate music.
No cat whiskers were burnt...well, yes they were...No, they weren't.
My Kaneclusion: Do cats even know it's Valentine's Day at all? Other than the little chocolate foil wrappers that I find in odd places, they probably don't know what the holiday is. It's not like they eat chocolate, or like roses, or drink wine. So I gave them a special treat of Pounce by candlelight. I felt that I needed to do something for them since they didn't really get the choice of whether they wanted to "Be Mine" or not. They just are.
And like my girls, who I love more than anything, I love these stupid cats next in line.
“The DRA testing peaks at level 80 which is APPROXIMATELY 7th to 8th grade reading level. It's a comprehensive test which includes fluency and rate, decoding, and comprehension. It includes a writing component in which students write interpretative responses and back them up from the text with evidence.”
Rachel came home and told me the results of her test. But before I go into that, I want to get into a little detail about my daughter and her “disability”.
As some of you know, my daughter is hearing-impaired. She was born with something called, “Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome”, which is a fancy title for saying that her cochlea was not formed correctly in both ears.
When she was born, they did a newborn screening hearing test at the Backus Hospital which she did not pass. This test measures the nerve impulses to the brain to see if a child is receiving certain sounds or not. Ten and half years ago, Dr. Toni Maxon was responsible for getting legislation passed in the State of CT, making it mandatory for all newborn babies to be tested before leaving the hospital. They passed the legislation six months prior to Rachel being born. Had they not passed it, quite frankly, I would not have known she had hearing loss until she probably went to school. She would not have been able to speak correctly. We learn how to speak by listening and repeating what we hear. If she didn’t hear it correctly, she would just repeat what she heard which would have been incorrect. Years ago, without these test being done, hearing loss problems were not diagnosed until much later until the child was in school and bad habits were already formed. Hearing-impaired kids were misdiagnosed at times and labeled as just being disobedient, disruptive, and deficient in learning abilities. All types of misdiagnoses were formed and children were being punished for behavioral problems. With the new hearing tests being mandatory in hospitals, parents are told right from the onset that there is a problem which allows them to take action sooner than later.
At the time of them telling me that Rachel had not passed this test, they assured me that it is somewhat common not to pass due to vernix in baby’s ears and instructed me to come back two weeks later. I was worried sick that my baby couldn’t hear. After all, with an infant, you can’t just ask her if she can hear or not. It takes a year or two for them to be able to communicate on that level. So I had no idea and had to rely on the test results that I was given.
Two weeks went by and I brought her back to Backus and she failed the test again. I was so upset over this news. All my siblings had perfectly healthy babies, and to be honest, I just knew it was time for someone in my family to have a child that had some type of problem. It was the luck of the draw for me to have a child with issues. I had had such a horrible pregnancy (threw up for 9 months, I was in and out of the hospital with all types of things) it just stood to reason that the baby was suffering through the 9 months as well. I was quite concerned that she would have greater birth defects than she did. So when they told me she hadn’t passed the test, I was quite upset, but not all together shocked. With everything that happened in those 9 months, I was just relieved that she didn’t come out looking like “Rosemary’s Baby.”
Up to that point, I had no experience of dealing with people with hearing impairment. All I knew is that my baby wasn’t “perfect” and might not be able to hear anything. I’m not sure if I felt sorrier for her or myself. I had questioned myself while I was pregnant, as I’m sure other mothers do, questioning if I had the patience to have a baby in the first place. But getting this news, I knew I was going to have to have a great deal of patience to raise a child that couldn’t hear and somehow I was going to have to reach inside myself and find whatever patience it took.
At first, I didn’t believe the test results. They told me I needed to find an audiologist for further testing. But instead, I didn’t accept their findings and I wanted more proof that my baby couldn’t hear. So I made an appointment in New London at the Audiology Department at the Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. Keep in mind that the way they test babies is they put little electrodes on their heads to measure nerve impulses. If the baby moves, it skews the results. It’s not like you can tell the baby not to move. Infants don’t quite understand that. Every time we tested, Baby Rachel would of course wake up and therefore, I felt the results were inconclusive. I needed someone to tell me definitively if she had hearing loss, or if she was deaf, or what. So I made an appointment at Yale and took her there for tests for a third opinion. This time, they gave her a sedative to knock her out so they could complete the tests. But even then, I can’t recall what exactly happened, but they couldn’t tell me for sure what her hearing loss was, only that the test results indicated that she did have hearing loss and that I needed to get her fitted with hearing aids or put her through an operation for a cochlear implant. As explained to me, the surgeon removes the ear and goes into the brain and…”Stop right there! Nobody is going into my baby’s brain and nobody is removing my baby’s ear!” Especially not without conclusive evidence that this is what she needed.
For six months, I couldn’t believe she had hearing loss. I was in complete denial. I guess because nobody was successfully able to get through the entire tests with her, for various reasons, and I kept holding out hope that the tests were wrong; that if she could just make it through the whole test, possibly over time, this would correct itself. It wasn’t just the hearing tests that led me to believe and to hope that this wasn't true. All the reasons I was given for babies to be born with hearing loss did not fit our situation. Genetically, there was no accounting for this to happen. There was nobody on either side of the families that had any type of hearing loss. There was a list of possible other causes but I didn’t have one of the items listed. So how could this be? (See, luck of the draw!) Between looking at the data that typically causes hearing loss and looking at the family histories, coupled with knowing that she never successfully made it through her testing, I was certain this was all just one big mistake. I felt like I was going to keep getting her tested until someone told me that she was fine.
What little I knew about hearing loss held me back. I did little things like clapping my hands and upon seeing her flinch, this was proof to me that she could hear. Certainly the doctors and test results were all wrong. My mother came to my house for a visit and did the same thing. “Oh, she’s fine” my mother would say. If that infant could only speak and tell me she was okay, then I would believe it.
The only experience I had with deafness was at the age of 13, I had a deaf cat. She was all white with blue eyes and was totally deaf. She couldn’t hear a thing. To get her attention, we would need to cause a vibration like stomping on the floor or throwing something at her to cause her to look. Well, we wouldn’t actually throw something at her, per se, but rather near her. Was I going to have to do the same thing with my new baby? Throw things at her to get her attention? Dear God, I don’t think I can throw a shoe at my baby! My cat’s demise was escaping out of the house that she was never allowed to leave. It happened to be Halloween night, while we were all getting our costumes on and focused on going trick or treating, the cat got out the door somehow and was hiding under my father’s car. My father, who was on his way to bowling, started his car, which the cat couldn’t hear, and he backed his car up over her, killing her. Dear God, will my child never be able to leave the house, and if she does, will she get hit by a car? This was all the experience I had to draw on.
My last attempt at trying to attain the news I wanted to hear, I took her to the Children’s Medical Center in Hartford. Again, they knocked her out, which by the way, is a scary thing all unto itself. To see your infant baby on a gurney, knocked out cold, hoping they didn’t give her too much of the drug so that she never wakes up again, is stressful enough. Parents that have had to subject their child to surgery know what I’m talking about. Weighing if the right choice was made and being able to live with the outcome can be the longest hours in one’s life. One tiny mistake and your life and theirs can be changed forever. Rachel was about 5 months old at the time. They did a complete head scan which provided films of her cochlea and they also did the electrode tests. Here she is during her test:
Two weeks later, I had to return to the doctor’s office for the results. My doctor, an ear, nose and throat doctor, who was very well-respected in CT for being on the leading edge of performing cochlear implants, gave me the results. He showed me on the films that my daughter’s cochlea was not formed correctly. Up to this point, all the discussions and test results had all been subjective. But here this man was showing me an actual picture and comparing it to a normal cochlea. And even as he was telling me and showing me all this, I was still trying to find ways he could be wrong. He sensed this, and finally, this young handsome doctor laid it on the line for me. “Ms. Kane, your daughter is hearing-impaired. And as her mother, you need to get her fitted for hearing aids as soon as possible. You’re her mother and it’s up to you to get her what she needs now and start advocating for her. She needs you to be her mother.” I had not had anyone be so direct with me. I started to cry because I knew he was right. I knew that there was nowhere else to take my baby for more tests. I had exhausted all the local medical centers in my area. I had taken her everywhere I could and basically everyone kept telling me the same thing. But not as directly as this man. I cried in his office and he let me cry for a while. Then he put his arm on my shoulder and said, “She’s going to be alright because she has a mother who loves her and cares about her and you’re going to be alright.” This, of course, made me cry even harder.
We left his office and I cried for about a week. I cried over the thought that my daughter would never be able to hear the finer things in life. Anyone that knows me knows I’m a huge music buff. What would this mean to have a daughter who can’t hear music? Would she never be able to sing? Sing? Would she ever be able to speak correctly? Would she ever know the sound of my voice? Would she be able to live a normal, productive life not being able to hear? What would she be missing out on? Would she be able to hear the sound of birds chirping in the morning? Would people throughout her life make fun of her for having to wear hearing aids? Would she have friends? Would she be able to communicate with other people?
All these questions overwhelmed me. I remember distinctly going to the Big E (Eastern States Expo) and upon entering, wheeling my baby in her stroller up to a huge glockenspiel that was set up at the entrance of the park. We stood there listening to the wonderful sounds, all the while wondering if my baby could hear it. I stood there crying and when I looked over at Dianne, she too had tears in her eyes. Something that rarely happens for Dianne. Her tears confirmed for me that I was not alone in my fears; that the disappointment for my child was real. (Not disappointment IN my child, but FOR my child. There is a great distinction.)
In that moment in time, I threw myself a little pity party. Why me, Lord? Why didn’t I get a perfect child? Why did I receive a child that couldn’t hear?
What I didn’t realize at the time, but certainly do now, is that I DID receive the perfect child. The perfect child for me!
Here is a poem that has been circulated to parents of children with disabilities to help them know that they are not alone. I think it’s a good idea that parents with healthy children read it as well so I am posting it in my blog. It explains it well. Emily Perl Kingsley wrote this poem that describes her journey, a journey that many parents can relate to as they reflect on the beginning. When I received a copy of this, I read it and cried because it is so true:
Welcome to Holland
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability to try to help people understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this:
When you are going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michaelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland".
"HOLLAND?!" you say. "What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would have never met.
It’s just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But, after you've been there for a while you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned.
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.
But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.
After a week of coming to grips with what life had handed me, I pulled myself up and started to kick into action. This child needed me, and dammit, I was going to do everything in my power to give her the best opportunities to hear no matter what. I looked online for my options. There were three resources in CT in my area that offered different philosophies. In the hearing-impaired/deaf world, there is a division of philosophy that I didn’t know existed until reading up on it. The differences are this: one school of thought is that being deaf is completely natural and that nothing should be done to alter that; that the means in which to communicate is sign language. Period. Some deaf people view it as more of a culture than it is a disability, and find it offensive that anyone would want to force them into hearing to make them be like everyone else. (For reference, there was a good movie that went into detail about the struggles of deaf children growing up with deaf parents and the difference of opinions on getting cochlear implants to be able to hear. If you are interested, go to http://soundandfuryfilm.com.) The other school of thought is that there are medical advances that give access to the hearing-impaired and deaf so that they gain access to sound, and if they gain access to sound, they can learn to speak, and therefore don’t need to learn sign language as their primary source of communication. Basically, if technology could get people with hearing loss to be able to hear, then everything else would fall into place, thus regaining the sense they lost. There were three places in CT that were options for me to take Rachel to. One offered just sign language, which I personally don’t know and would have to learn in order to communicate with my daughter. The second one focused on the technology and giving access to those who couldn’t hear, and teaching them how to listen, hear and speak using that technology. And the third option was a combination of the two but was a far distance away which was a deterrent. As someone that has worked with computers my entire life, I chose to go with option two, getting technology to help my daughter hear. My decision was also based on a few other factors. For instance, I hear and speak, and therefore, she should learn how to do those things; as much as there is a large population of deaf and hearing-impaired people that she could get to know, I didn’t want to limit her in any way by just teaching her sign language which would put up a block between herself and other people with normal hearing.
I called and made an appointment and got my daughter enrolled in the “Birth to Three” program through CREC Soundbridge in Wethersfield, CT. The Birth to Three program is provided by the State. Rachel was provided with digital hearing aids which helped her hear. They were programmed for her specific hearing loss. Rachel has hearing loss in the high frequency range. This is a complicated thing to explain, but for simplicity, she is not totally deaf and can hear things without the use of her hearing aids. But she may not hear them correctly because high frequency letters and sounds like the letters /s/ and /f/ she can’t hear. So, for example, without her hearing aids on, the word “stop” she would hear as “top”. But with her hearing aids on, digitally, the sound of the letter /s/ is increased in volume, accentuating the /s/, which allows her to hear the /s/ and the entire word “s-top”.
At eight months old, she was taught to listen through these devices and learned how to speak. From day one, as soon as I accepted my child’s disability, (so what that it took me 6 months!) I always, ALWAYS treated her like any other child. In addition, I emphasized that her teachers and caregivers do exactly the same. She’s just like any other kid and her disability has not held her back in any way. (Other than some physical activities like skating and that’s only because if she takes a blow to the head, she could lose more hearing, which is not what we want. So she doesn’t participate in contact sports. But that’s her only limitation.)
As Rachel has grown, she is becoming more aware that she is slightly different, but not in a bad way. She is starting to advocate for herself, and therefore self awareness is being brought to the forefront. But prior to this, she didn’t know she was any different than the other children around her. I chalk this up to many factors. One, I treat her exactly as I would if she could hear normally. Two, the school environments that I have put her in have been supportive and conducive to Rachel’s learning, and three, she is very bright and picks up on things very quickly.
I started writing this blog all to get to this one point and somehow it has taken me 5 pages to get here.
The stereotype of hearing-impaired people is that they are stupid. I think in recent years, as more and more people are getting diagnosed and getting hearing aids and cochlear implants, the stereotype is slowly going away. I think the stereotype itself comes from the way that hearing-impaired people or deaf people speak. Most hearing-impaired people speak nasally. That’s because what they hear is what they are reproducing. Before the digital age, hearing aids weren’t of the best quality. But nowadays, the technology has progressed. But there is still a stigma somehow that people that can’t hear are stupid. And guess what? I am here, well, Rachel is here, to dispel the myth! And there are plenty of other fine examples of very intelligent people who are hard of hearing out there. Slowly, but surely, the stigma is fading away and I can only hope that knowing people like Rachel will help to cast those silly notions aside.
Case in point. Last week, Rachel’s school took the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) tests. According to her teacher:
“The DRA testing peaks at level 80 which is APPROXIMATELY 7th to 8th grade reading level. It's a comprehensive test which includes fluency and rate, decoding, and comprehension. It includes a writing component in which students write interpretative responses and back them up from the text with evidence. We have been working on this all year and Rachel is an EXCELLENT writer who fully explains her thinking. We tested everyone this week. Rachel scored an INDEPENDENT reading level of 80. There are no more books or levels with this particular tool. This is a wonderful accomplishment! It is not unusual for my sixth graders to reach this level - but kudos to Rachel for being the only 5th grader so far.”
I am so very proud of her!!! And most of all, she is proud of herself for this accomplishment. She was so excited and couldn’t wait to tell me the news. It takes some "normal hearing" kids until 7th or 8th grade to get to the 80 level. She's in 5th grade! Stupid? I think not!
Now, where she gets her brilliance is another story. It certainly isn’t from me or my genes. And to prove this point (that’s how stupid I am, that I’m actually going to prove to you how stupid I am!) it can be proven by the next two pictures. This first one is from when I was in 3rd grade. Look at it closely. Can you identify the two things that are wrong with this picture?
Genetically, even though she didn’t inherit her hearing loss from anyone in the family tree, I am thankful that she didn’t inherit our brains either. Here’s a picture of my Grandfather in London. What is wrong with this picture?
She has far surpassed the odds, hasn’t she? The only disability the kid has is us!
My Kaneclusions: If you’re one of those people that think people who can’t hear are less intelligent or somehow are less bright, then you need to meet my daughter. She will blow you away with her confidence, language skills, writing abilities and overall intellect. I was once frightened for her well-being, wondering if she would be able to learn if she couldn’t hear. Looking back, what the heck was I worried about? Of course, that’s easy to say now.
If you know someone that just received the news that their child is hearing-impaired and they are struggling with that unexpected news, you need to share this blog with them. If, for nothing else, to give them hope that their child can be as successful and productive as anyone else, and not aspire to be mediocre, but rather can actually excel to their highest potential!
Dr. Toni Maxon, Rachel’s audiologist and speech therapist, was the one that got the State to do mandatory newborn screening hearing tests. Without her, I think that I would have just thought that my daughter wasn’t all that bright. I wouldn’t have known that she wasn’t learning or speaking correctly due to a hearing loss. Toni was a well-respected expert in her field and died unexpectedly in a car accident on her way to her only son’s college graduation in Long Island. Her passing was a loss to the entire hearing-impaired community. She was a pioneer and will never be forgotten. Our paths crossed because of my daughter’s disability and had my daughter not been born hearing-impaired, I would have never met her, or others like Ellen Gill, who taught my daughter to listen through the use of hearing aids and taught her how to speak. Both women have been instrumental in Rachel’s success in using her technology, and for that, I am eternally grateful. These women, and others through the years, have been in my Holland. Italy now looks pale in comparison.
When God was handing out souls, was Rachel the best child for me? Absolutely! Are there times that I wish she could hear like everyone else? Oh sure. But my point of writing all this is to let people know that just because she wears funny green things in her ears, doesn’t mean she’s any different. And actually, if there is a difference that needs to be distinguished, it’s that she may be brighter than most. I can live with that!
I joke with Rachel that God gave me her because I had experience with deaf cats. (No objects were flung in the making of this child.)
And for other parents that might be feeling like they too are taking a trip to Holland, not Italy as planned, I can tell you that this is not turning out anything like my worst imagination had played out for me ten years ago. My daughter can sing, dance, speak clearly (with the exception of her /r/ which she is presently working on but isn’t part of her hearing impairment), can act and perform on stage. The list is endless of the things she can do. She is a pre-teen, and like all pre-teens, she is listening to teeny-bopper music. To think I cried that she may never be able to listen to music. At this point, when the cd player is blasting and she’s singing as loud as she can to the likes of Justin Bieber, I say to you parents out there, be careful what you wish for!
In Connecticut this month, we have endured record snowfall amounts. Anywhere between 44” and 60” have been reported to have fallen across CT. Enough is enough.
Storm Denis just passed through this week leaving an additional foot of snow on top of the snow that was already here. Typically, for the last few years, it would snow and then the next day be gone; melted away. This year, because it’s been so cold and we keep getting hit with more snow, the mounds are so high in my yard, that I can’t see if cars are coming when pulling out of my driveway.
During the first snow storm of the season, it creates friendly banter between people you know and even perfect strangers. Talking about the weather. Everyone can talk about the weather. But now, after so many storms and so much snow, I am so sick of everyone talking about the weather. Here are some of the most common things people have said over the last few weeks, and what was once pleasant repertoire, has now turned to sarcastic, curmudgeonly things I wish I could say:
“We’re supposed to get 6” tonight.”
“You WISH you were getting 6” tonight!”
“I hope we have no school tomorrow.”
“You know, if you want it that bad, call in sick,
keep your kid(s) home, then you’ll have no school, right?”
“Cold enough for ya’?”
“No, I like it when the wind chill factor goes down to 300 below and my parka feels like a windbreaker. Blood circulation is over rated.”
“I spent all day shoveling and boy am I sore.”
“Take a pill. And don’t you live in a condo?”
“Don’t tell me what to do. YOU stay warm!”
“Mommy, are the roads bad?”
“Yes, Honey, Mommy needs to concentrate because other drivers…Don’t slam on your brakes, you $#@% moron!”
“Take your boots off at the door.”
“What do you mean you’re going to Washington?
Amtrak is closed! Who is going to shovel the driveway?”
Admittedly, all this snow and cabin fever is making me a wee bit cranky.
Here’s another thing lately that’s bothering me. Storm Denis. Have we officially used up every single possible name in their correct spelling that we now have to resort to variations on how to spell names for storms? Last week, it was "Clare". Have we already used “Clair” or “Claire”? And this week it was storm "Denis". Not “Dennis” but “Denis” What next? "Ephan" instead of Evan? (By the way, if we DO get another storm, I WILL call it the Ephan Storm anyway no matter what name they pick!)
And who gets to pick these names anyhow? I want to throw a few names into the hat for the next selection. I work with a woman and her first name is Stormy. How’s that for a storm name. “Storm Stormy is moving up the coast…”
Or how about Anager? That’s a perfectly good name. “It appears that this year’s Storm Anager has left the area and is heading towards Breakville. Later, we’ll take stock in where Storm Anager will be and what totals he will amount to.”
How about one for our Spanish friends that live in the Northeast? If the storms get up to the letter “m”, they should call it “Mister”. Although, using a Spanish dialect, it would be “Meester”. “Si Senore, Meester Nor’Easter”. Has a ring to it, no? How upset can you be shoveling 10” of snow from “Meester Nor’Easter”?
See, why can’t they get creative with these names? Although, I did think “Denis” was pushing the limits a bit. Am I the only one that had a hard time refraining from saying, “I got 10 inches from nasty Denis”? With one simple typo of just one letter, that sentence would take on a whole new meaning, wouldn’t it? If I worked for a TV network, I would have had a field day with the script for the teleprompter on that one!! For example, the teleprompter for Scott Haney would read: “Now on to local weather, Gay City Park in Manchester CT got up to 12” of Penis…I mean Denis.”
Sorry. That was the 12 year old boy in me coming out. Back to the snow.
Here’s a facebook posting between Dianne and I:
SK: There is no mistake that snow is spelled sNOw.
DS: Or maybe it is sNOW.
SK: Or maybe we are reaping what we SnOW.
DS: Or, after shoveling out...snOWWWWW!
SK: Or, SnOw what that the kids will be in school until July!
This is how we speak to each other in the house too, by the way. We’re always one-up-ing each other. She says it’s good brain fitness and exercise. I say we’re just competitive…but in a healthy, funny way. (By the way, I got 3 and she only got 2 so I won. But who’s counting?)
Anyway, the snow. Oh sure, the snow is fun when you have kids. The first one or two snow storms are great. You bundle up in your snow pants and burnt mittens to go outside. Burnt mittens? Oh that. Dianne brought back mittens for Rachel from Canada from the Olympics. Rachel wore them, and as mittens do, they had clumps of dingle berry snow on them. So, like an idiot, I put them on my gas fireplace stove to thaw and dry out. The next morning this is what they looked like:
Dianne, of course, was very upset with this, and over night, those mittens had increased in value.
“Those were one of kind! They only sold them at the Olympics!”
Under my breath, “…to millions of spectators and thousands of athletes.”
“That’s not the point!”
“I know, I’m sorry. But aren’t you glad they didn’t catch on fire and burn the whole house down?”
“Yeah, but I can’t get those mittens again. I knew I should have put them away for her and not let her wear them.”
“Um, yeah. Did you think they were going to improve with age like some kind of investment?”
“You’re missing the point.”
“No, I’m not. I burned a pair of mittens and somehow managed NOT to burn down the house.”
“Oh never mind.”
Truth be told, I felt horrible about those stupid mittens. In case you've seen Rachel in those mittens, now you know the story behind it. She needs to still wear those mittens or I'll never hear the end of it.
Anyway, as I was saying, you get bundled up and go outside. The first snow storm, you throw a few snowballs at each other…until someone gets hurt. You hold your tongue out and let acid snow fall on your tongue…until it burns from all the impurities. (We need a huge Brita filter in the sky.) You track footprints in the snow that wild coyotes or deer have made in your yard until you discover yellow snow, followed by having to change your boots because you’ve stepped in a pile of deer dung. And isn’t it fun scraping the snow off the cars only to discover that the brush you were using had sand all over it and it scratched the heck out of the paint. Isn’t it just grand when you have to shovel all that loveliness away? The first or second time, you get out your shovel and it’s not too bad because you don’t have to lift the snow very high. But the fourth, fifth, sixth time it snows, it’s living hell. It’s hard work lifting snow up 4 feet in the air to throw on existing snow piles that just keep getting higher and higher. Anyone that knows me knows that I detest hard work. So there you go. Nothing about this is fun to me.
But here’s the silver lining to getting older, or at least what I see as a silver lining. Recently, we had a friend that is well below the risk factor age for heart attacks but indeed had one. Thanks to her, because I AM of heart attack age, I never have to shovel alone again…and soon to never have to shovel period! So see. Life does get better with age.
We had shoveled our driveway clear just enough to get our cars out. Admittedly, it was dicey trying to back out and not hit the wo-manmade mountains at the end of the driveway. I think my mirrors actually grazed them while going by. As long as we could get in and out, that’s all that mattered. That is, until I read a friend of mine’s post on facebook about the propane truck driver who insisted that he widen his driveway and remove more snow. That’s when I realized that I, too, had to widen the driveway for my propane delivery due next week. What a drag! For Dianne, that is. After all, I could NEVER lift that snow that had been sitting there for a few days. I could have a heart attack you know. (I suppose not funny, but actually true.)
Here are some pictures of our driveway from all the snow, as of today. And we're expecting more snow this week!
What is more fun than lifting heavy snow and trying to throw it over 4’ snow banks? Roof Raking! First of all, I don’t own a roof rake. And even if I did, I wouldn’t be attempting to rake a foot of snow off my house with me standing below. Especially with all those dangerous icicles just waiting to come down and poke my eye out. Didn’t you see “The Christmas Story” where an icicle nearly takes Peter Billingsley’s eye out? Oh no, wait, that was from a BB gun and he just said it was an icicle. (Did you know “BB” stood for ball bearing?) Anyway, pulling mounds of snow on top of myself waiting for an avalanche to come down on my head, is not woman’s work. It’s man’s work! Therefore, the snow remains on the roof until Spring.
I have to say that the only good thing about snow is the annual sledding event. We have managed to go again this year, as we usually do…
We went to the Ledyard Middle School hill off of Rte 214. Unlike last year when we went in the dark (Click here to read that blog), we went during the day this time. The kids enjoyed it. Even some of the adults took on the hill. Sue and I are both older moms. But you would never know it by the way we dared each other with triple dog dares to go down the hill. It wasn’t really sliding down the hill that worried me, per se. It was the walking UP the hill that had me more concerned. I’m not exactly in tip-top shape. Any over exertion, like lifting a fork to my mouth, can cause heavy breathing and cause for concern. So looking up at the hill from below, I had my moments of questioning my physical abilities. But throwing caution to the wind, I gave into the peer pressure and Sue and I succumbed to taking on the challenge. We took a swig of medicinal port and off we went.
We made our way up the hill, with toboggan in tow. We solicited some of the kids to go down with us (for extra padding should we crash), but then thought twice once we started to discuss who would sit where. I know I was calculating in my mind where the safest place to sit would be, and I knew Sue was doing the same. “If I sit in the front, I can see where we’re going. Hmm, yeah, but is that a good thing? Maybe I should sit in the rear. But then I’ll be the first to fall off…No, it’s definitely the middle I want.”
So Sue got in front and crisscrossed her legs to fit under the protection of the curved up end of the toboggan. It was decided that she would go on first since she’s shorter than me and could fit her legs in. Once that was decided, next there were discussions of what kids should go where. It was decided that Leah (9 years old) would go next. Why? Well, because she got fed up with us discussing it and just got on. (Good for her!) Looking at the space that was left on the toboggan, and looking at the size of my derriere, it was obvious that if I got on, there wouldn’t be any more room for anyone else to go down. Feeling bad that the kids weren’t going to be able to go down on this run, I graciously and humbly said I would decline and let the kids go instead. Sue was wise to my game and said not a chance. With apprehension, I lowered my plumpness down on the sled and lifted each leg while Leah pulled each of my boots up onto her lap. Even though I was in pain, I let her do it – you don’t mess with Leah!
Being in this compromising position, with my tailbone sitting squarely on the flat side of the wood, my legs up in the air like they haven’t been in years (tmi?), the toboggan started to move. In my head, I started to think, “Wait”. Then my brain started to send out all kinds of warnings, red lights were going off, and all I could hear in my brain was “WAIT!” But it was too late. The three of us were in motion. As soon as we started to take off, both Sue and I started saying out loud, “This wasn’t a good idea…” Then we picked up speed. “THIS WASN’T A GOOD IDEA!!” And before you knew it, we were careening down the slope of Homicide Hill* going 50 miles per hour on a wooden toboggan that could crack and leave wood shards up our you know what if it broke. “THIS WASN’T A GOOD IDEA AT ALL!!”
Halfway down the hill, things began to fall apart. Oh, not the sled. The sled was tried and true and had been for many years. No, it was the tobogganers having a little miscommunication on which way to lean. “LEAN…to the right!” “No, L-E-A-N!!!! To the Left!!!” Before I knew it, I was off the toboggan and sliding down the hill on my side. A few feet away from me, Leah fell off and a few feet away from her, Sue was lying on her side. The inclination was to lay there and laugh, which we did. But then I remembered that I had been the one screaming at the kids when they got to the bottom of the hill to immediately get off their sleds/tubes so that others coming down the hill wouldn’t crash into them. Assessing that I hadn’t broken any bones, I got up. We had made it only halfway down the hill and I had to make a decision. Walk down the rest of the way and possibly get knocked down by some crazy, out of control tuber, OR get back on the toboggan and ride it the rest of the way down. I chose the latter. I was the only one that got back on and rode it to the bottom of the hill to sweet victory. (It was only another 10 feet.)
The first time Sue went down Homicide Hill by herself, she had one of those plastic saucers that only one person can ride at a time. She sat on it cross-legged and went down the hill. I’ve never seen anyone go down a hill so slow in all my life. She had a strangle hold on the front of the sled and was in complete control. “I will NOT go over the ramp the kids made in the middle of the hill. I will NOT!” And her steering abilities made it so. It only took her 35 minutes to get down the hill. Kidding.
The saucer she was using reminded me of when my sister, brother and I would go sledding in our yard on a washing machine cover. Now THAT was sledding. We’re talking 70 miles per hour and without a helmet! Concussion Central!
Here’s a very poor picture of us sledding 45 years ago on the washing machine lid. It’s of very poor quality, but in the original I can make out that my sister is laying across the hill (middle of picture), my brother is waiting at the top to come down on his sled (upper right hand corner), and I’m off to the side crying because they won’t let me take a turn (top center). Or at least that’s what I see when I look at that picture.
When we moved from that house, we moved to a house that didn’t have a hill. Well, it had a very steep driveway that was between two concrete walls that led out to the street with no visual way of seeing if cars were coming or not. (And they call the golf course Suicide Hill?) By the time we moved into our new house, washing machines then were made with doors, not covers or lids. So all we had was a sled. Yes, a red, lead paint, rusty-after-the-first-year, sled. The kind with wood slats that we would lay on that was perfect for getting slivers in your belly. Upon laying on it, face first, it had a cross bar that was meant for steering. There were metal blades that glided through the snow and the only way to stop was to fall off, hoping, of course, that the metal rusty blades didn’t glide over your fingers thus cutting your fingers off.
In the sledding adventure this week, Sue’s son came sledding with us for the first time in his life. (He’s 10). He had one of those types of sleds. Honestly, I thought for sure we would be calling an ambulance for him at some point during the day. But his father gave him instructions and he managed to master the skill. Here’s a picture of Colin and his Flexible Flyer.
Krista and her two girls came sledding as well. Krista came sledding wearing only ski pants, a ski jacket, and thermals, and I mean really only that! Oh no wait. I lied. She had on a face mask too so that nobody knew who she was. She tubed down the hill on her own. What was interesting about her ride, which unfortunately we didn’t videotape, was that she decided to make her own pathway down the hill. You know how a hill gets worked in by the sleds and tubes and becomes flat and slick by the continual usage. Well Krista decided she wasn’t going to be confined to just sledding in that area. Oh no. She was going to do it her way. She was going to slide through the “rough”. She got to the top of the hill, set her tube down just at the peak of where everyone was walking up, sat down and proceeded to wait there until nobody was walking up the hill. She must have sat there for a good 3 hours. I’m exaggerating. It was probably more like 15 minutes. But there she waited until the coast was clear (and basically made everyone walk on the other side of the hill so that she could slide down), then rode her tube to the finish line and beyond through unchartered territory.
Here are some other shots of sledding this year – these were before Denis took his dump on us:
And the boy who refused to go sledding:
My Kaneclusions: Why did I call it Homicide Hill? Well, the Norwich Golf Course has Suicide Hill. Suicide Hill indicates that if you go down it and you don’t make it back alive, that you took your own life into your hands by going down it. But the hill we were sledding on in Ledyard would be Homicide Hill because if I went down it and didn’t make it out alive, the blame would have been purely on Sue for bullying me into doing something that caused my demise. Homicide Hill. I’m liking it.
I’m ready for it to be summer already when I can complain about 90 degree heat, brown outs, bugs, humidity, etc. It’s only January and I’m already running out of things to complain about. What we need is a heat wave so we can change our elevator speeches to “Can you believe how warm it is? It’s February and it’s 80 degrees. Must be El Nino, huh?”
Actually, I’m a hopeless romantic and I actually do like the first time it snows each year. Everything gets all pretty in a blanket of white. We hibernate in our safe, warm homes. I usually cook a hearty meal so the oven adds heat and makes the house smell good. I always have a fire burning in the fireplace for both warmth and aesthetics. There is always a trip to Red Box to rent movies prior to the storm so that when our tired bodies are done shoveling, we can curl up on the couch and watch a movie. It’s the things that memories are made of.
But after that first snow fall, I hate it. I’ve been considering what President Obama has called upon us to do as a Nation, which is to be innovative and come up with new and improved products to boost the American economy. In a show of support and in an effort to create jobs, I have an idea. It costs the towns in this country hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in plowing and sanding the roads, and then after the season is over, fixing the frost heaves and potholes that are left afterwards. With all the snow we have gotten in CT this year so far, houses are actually collapsing from the weight of the snow on roofs. The number of car accidents and people getting injured from falls due to snow is enough cause to try to remedy this Mother Nature event, or at least defend ourselves against it. And that’s why I want to invent (are you ready for this?)…”the first “Dental Dam for the Sky”. Yes, Folks, it’s a dental dam for the sky to prevent snow from ever falling on or around your haouse again! Here’s how it works. Our dental dams, or tarps if you will, are tied to the top of every telephone pole and tree surrounding your house. The tarp collects the snow as it falls and with our special patented heater coils inside, it melts the snow upon contact, 100’ above your house. By the time it seeps through the tarp, it becomes rain. Yes, folks, I said it. Rain! No more shoveling! No more roof raking. No more slipping on the ice! Folks, you, too, could cover the sky over your house with your very own “Dental Dam for the Sky”. It comes in sky blue color, giving you the sensation that every day is a bright sunny blue sky day, or gray, for those of you that like the realism of it raining from gray skies. Call 1-800-NoSno4U to get yours today!”
What do you think? Am I on to something? Probably not. I always talk myself out of good ideas thinking I could never get them manufactured. So this idea, too, will sit on the shelf in my mind, until someone else develops it and gets rich off it.
I guess the only thing left to do this winter is sit back in my warm toasty house, gaze into the fire in my fireplace, with a nice glass of my homemade chocolate port by my side, and come up with ways that I can blame all this snow on Congress, Boehner or Sarah Palin. God knows, there’s someone out there right now trying to pin this on President Obama.