Month: April 2016
Tomorrow – Saturday, April 30 – is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.
Since I don’t even have a doctor, this is not something that would normally interest me. But when I heard this news on the radio, I remembered my cupboard at home.
Half of that particular cupboard is full of spices and cooking sprays. The other half is full of the many, many, many, many prescription drugs we bought for Dylan over the years. In the course of the three years that Dylan took medication for ADHD, he tried almost everything. In fact, it would be easier to list the things he didn’t try than to list the things he did.
He didn’t try Vyvanse.
That’s all. He probably would have tried Vyvanse, which is just a time-released stimulant like all the other stimulants. But by the time we were down to only one option, we realized that drugs were not the answer for Dylan.
In fourth grade, drugs seemed to be immensely helpful. And there’s probably something to be said for the instant gratification of watching your ever-forgetful child finally able to remember what we said to him 20 seconds prior.
But with the drugs came side effects, moodiness, horrific depressions. And Dylan’s smile just kept disappearing for longer and longer periods of time. Finally, one day, we just quit.
And Dylan returned. He came back to us, full-force and head-on, the way he’d always been. Sure, he forgot everything again. He struggles constantly in school. But his personality is gloriously happy. Dylan is happy. And that matters more than everything else.
So I cleared out the cabinet. I got rid of a dozen or so prescription bottles, full to the brim of medications that didn’t work. I kept a few – just in case Dylan decides that he needs help in the future. The drugs I’ve kept expired years ago, so I’m not sure they’ll do him much good. But it beats having him seek drugs on the street.
And of course, there’s always next year’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.
When Prince died, both of my children – independently of one another – asked me if Prince was related to Queen.
Having never considered this before, I didn’t even understand the question when Dylan asked it. But when Shane asked more directly, “Is Prince the son of Queen?” it made sense. A prince is usually the son of a queen. How would they know that Queen is a group and that Prince is a solo artist and that the two don’t even remotely resemble one another?
My first response to Dylan was, “Oh no, Freddie Mercury died a long time ago!” As if they knew who Freddie Mercury – incredulous lead singer of Queen – might be.
I remember when Freddie Mercury died, though, only too well. His death was a total surprise to me.
But now, it seems, that so many, many, many of my favorite musicians are just disappearing. I adored Prince in his day. And his death comes on the heels of the death of beautiful glam rocker David Bowie. Then Glenn Frey died, which is really the death of the Eagles – my all-time favorite band.
I remember when Andy Gibb died, too – the first crushing blow to my favorite music. And Lisa Lopez from TLC – another horrific tragedy. John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Jerry Garcia – the extreme losses felt around the world. And Michael Jackson? I thought he would outlive us all.
It’s like someone has taken a monstrous sledgehammer to my album collection.
And I really do think that I expected everyone to live forever.
Luckily, it is the music that made me love them – and that music lives on, in spite of the artists’ mortality. Which, quite possibly, is why they became musicians in the first place.
In fact, I watched Dylan sing Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go almost better than George Michael did, in Dylan’s “Back to the 80’s” musical at school. And when Dylan sang Believe it Or Not, I was propelled back in time to my parents’ couch, watching The Greatest American Hero.
The music is going to keep on going. It’s legendary. And while it is sad when an era ends, new ones keep beginning – and I need to treasure those new beginnings.
I love Meghan Trainor now, for example. NO is my favorite new song. I got the kids tickets to Twenty One Pilots, but fell in love with their music myself and now we are all going to their concert. And I still get chills when I hear Ed Sheeran’s Don’t, even though Shane tells me that the song is “so old, Mom!” It came out in 2014.
So maybe Prince and Queen are lost to a new generation – even though my boys sang “We Will Rock You” as their first on-stage duet. Or maybe, just maybe, the songs will stay alive by being passed down through the generations as the classics that they are.
After all, that’s what “classic” means.
Shane barreled down the stairs yelling, “Mom! Mom!”
“Shane!” I said back. “Shane!”
“Did you see the ostrich in our front yard?”
I must have misheard him.
He was racing to the front window, me close behind. “Well, it might not be an ostrich,” he said. “But look!”
He pointed at the big window. I saw nothing, and certainly no ostrich.
“You are just pointing at the window,” I said. “Where exactly is it?”
“Right there!” he said, pointing aimlessly again. Eventually I saw something move, something black, just across the driveway from our front yard.
“it’s a turkey!” I exclaimed. I had only seen wild turkeys once before – a few miles from where we now live – so I knew they existed. But I had certainly never seen one in our yard before.
Shane is the best photographer in our family, so I sent him out in search of a picture. If nothing else, he was able to get a closer view of the bird. And while he didn’t get a picture, he did get to see it up close – and we both got to watch it fly away.
Later I told Dylan about the incident.
Dylan said, “He does know that ostriches are native to the African plains, right?”
I had to think about this. Sometimes Shane surprises me and knows absolutely nothing. So I asked Shane.
“You do know that ostriches don’t live around here, right?” I asked.
Shane said, “Yeah, I just looked out my window and my first thought was that it was an ostrich. But then I remembered that they are way bigger than that, and I couldn’t tell what kind of bird it was, so I just said it was an ostrich.”
I think he knows “ostrich.”
And now, in addition, he knows “wild turkey.”
We are the proud owners of a new … toilet.
My parents recommended a good brand, so I hopped up and ordered one online. Two days later, we had two enormous boxes on our front porch.
My husband, Bill, is an executive. He is president of his company, and very bright. He’s also cool enough to own a motorcycle, even though I now beg him not to ride it. And he’s musically gifted and funny, too.
But I gained an entirely new level of respect for Bill on Tuesday.
He opened up those boxes – which I couldn’t even lift off the porch – and went right to work. He brought in a bunch of tools from the garage. He removed the old toilet, which Dylan helped him carry out to the curb. Shane carried out the styrofoam-filled boxes. Bill covered up the hole in the floor with a towel, then went to Home Depot. He came back with some bolts and stuff, and kept working.
I helped carry the new toilet for about four feet. That’s all I did.
Bill worked for hours. When the toilet was finally in, we discovered that it was longer than our other toilet – which meant that it hit the water line in the back. The new toilet was tilted two inches to the right side.
So Bill went back to work. He moved the water line. I don’t know how he did it, but after another hour, the new toilet was no longer crooked.
And it totally works, too. It flushes. It doesn’t leak. And it fills up again, right after it flushes. It will even help us save water!
I gained a whole new respect for Bill on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, across the country, my cousin was experiencing the tragedy of watching her husband as he lost his battle with cancer.
She won’t have the opportunity now to watch him put in a new toilet – although he could have replaced every toilet in the house, and maybe rerouted the water line from the driveway. He was awesome like that. He was not only kind; he could do anything.
But her husband won’t go off to Home Depot anymore. He won’t be tinkering with his cars in the garage. He won’t be laughing at her jokes – or using his own beautifully dry wit.
They won’t be together anymore.
And when I went to tell Bill that my cousin’s husband was finally at peace, I saw my husband sprawled on the floor with small parts scattered all around him, making odd noises for no apparent reason, tugging at something behind a ceramic bowl.
I saw a man who works harder than anyone I know, just so he can make everyone happy.
And as sad as I am about my cousin’s – and our entire family’s – loss, maybe this otherwise pointless death can serve as a reminder – at least for me – of something I should remember every, single, valuable, glorious day.
I love him.
And I need to make sure he knows that.
For Shane’s third quarter of middle school, his grades dropped just a tad … more.
For the first quarter, he had straight A’s. For the second quarter, he had all A’s – except for a B in math.
For the third quarter, Shane has five A’s and two B’s.
At this rate, Shane will have all B’s by the end of 7th grade – if we’re that fortunate.
Shane does his homework. He comes home and meticulously practices his percussion for the required 25 minutes, five nights a week. He finishes his math first, which he has nearly every night. And if anyone requires anything else – including P.E. teachers, who often require quarter-long projects – he carefully spaces out the work until he has everything done that he needs to do.
But his grades have dropped – and he doesn’t seem to care.
He doesn’t have a drive to do better. He is personally satisfied with his grades. And I’m glad about that. In fact, I think he should be satisfied with his grades. Five A’s and two B’s … that’s pretty darn good.
But he could do better – and he chooses to ignore his own potential. He is content with what he’s doing. He doesn’t want to do more. He doesn’t want to work harder. He doesn’t want to check over his papers for simple math errors. He doesn’t want to write an extra paragraph on the back of a worksheet if he’s filled up the space on the front of the page. He doesn’t want to type his work so that it looks nicer.
Shane doesn’t want to do anything extra.
I’ve talked to him about this – without pressuring him, of course. And he has absolutely no idea why I would even mention it.
I guess I’m the only one who cares.
Dear Honored Council Member:
I am a parent who would like to strongly encourage you to financially support music education in our public schools.
My son, Dylan, has classic ADHD. He has very limited ability to focus for prolonged periods of time. Dylan’s processing speed is at 9% and even at age 15, he struggles mightily. He dreads school because it is an endless regime of sitting still, trying desperately to pay attention.
But Dylan also sings. He sings opera. He sings pop. He sings country. He sings rock. And he sings like an angel.
Elementary school was a constant struggle. Dylan dragged himself to school, bored to tears and unable to concentrate for longer than a few minutes at a time. After kindergarten, the budgets were cut for the arts and P.E., so he only had music class once a week.
Fortunately, Dylan was chosen for a lead part in the 2nd grade musical. After that, suddenly the kid who couldn’t concentrate became a “famous” singer. At age 7, music class changed the way people looked at him.
Dylan has perfect pitch. As he’s grown, he’s taught himself to play guitar, bass, drums and an amazing piano. He composes exceptional digital music on his iPad. He creates songs where he sings nine different parts and harmonizes with himself – simultaneously.
We spent years in meetings with teachers and principals and doctors and counselors and specialists, having Dylan diagnosed and finally creating an IEP for him. And during all this time, what saved Dylan was music.
When he hit adolescence, he was overcome with frustration about all of the school failures that come with ADHD. His passion and gift for music has been the one constantly good thing in his life.
Being GT/LD is a challenge. Dylan needs to do a lot of things that most kids don’t need to do, just so he can stay afloat. If he doesn’t talk to his teachers he rarely knows when there is a test coming up, or what’s due the next day. He can’t finish his class work as fast as the other kids do – so he has hours of extra homework. And then he can’t remember to turn it in, even after he’s worked on it for so long.
But he consistently makes the honor roll. And I attribute a huge part of his successes to the positive affirmations that come with being a gifted musician. Whereas he once suffered for every moment of every day, we now focus on music to help him push through that ADHD barrier to have solid accomplishments.
My younger son, Shane, has also benefitted from music. Having a musically gifted (and ADHD) older brother can be hard – but my sixth grader plays percussion. Shane is proudly part of the school band. And while he doesn’t have the ADHD challenges, his self-esteem has been raised immeasurably by being part of a musical team. He writes his own songs and studies under “Teacher of the Year” and is happier with his music than ever before.
I hope you can understand that your decision about the Music Education budget has a REAL impact on REAL children. When the budget was cut after my son’s kindergarten year, we collapsed emotionally. We didn’t know yet that our son had learning challenges. All we knew is that he lost a lot of what he loved about school.
We have a chance to save music for more real children. Please keep music high on your priority list. It saved my son in ways reading, math, science and social studies simply never will. Thank you.
Shane and I have been watching The Wonder Years on DVD. For those uninitiated (or forgetful), this is the eighties sit-com about a 13-year-old boy growing up in the late 1960’s. The series is funny and touching, sometimes in a very profound way.
After a particularly deep and touching episode where Kevin fights his mother for his independence, I sat sobbing on the couch next to Shane. He looked at me knowingly, and leaned in for a hug.
“Is this show made for adults?” Shane asked. “Because it seems like some of this stuff is just for adults.”
I laughed, tears still streaming down my face. “Well,” I said. “I was 25 years younger when I saw it before and I didn’t have any kids. So I always related to Kevin. But now I can relate to the mom, too. So I guess it’s for all ages.”
On TV, as the credits rolled, Joni Mitchell was singing The Circle Game:
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time….
I’d heard that song recently – and I remembered well where I’d heard it.
So I told Shane. “I heard this song a few months ago. My dad and I were at a funeral. They played that song and everybody was crying. My dad told me that he’d never heard it before but I remembered this show. I said, ‘Yes you have! It was on The Wonder Years!”
Shane processed that for a moment.
Then he said, “At my funeral, I want to play all happy songs so no one is sad.”
The third quarter grades are in.
If left, essentially, to his own devices, these are the grades Dylan gets.
Dylan has an A in P.E. He got 100% on absolutely everything. Dylan loves P.E. and needs constant movement, so this makes sense.
His other six classes are loaded with classwork grades of 90-100%. In all of his classes, he was capable of getting A’s. He has the potential to get A’s.
But he didn’t do that. For one thing, he chose to ignore his homework. In Spanish, he has an A – except that he is missing seven homework assignments. Even though homework only counts for 10% of his grade, the missing assignments brought down his grade to a B.
He had the exact same experience in Computer Science. His classwork and projects grades averaged 94.4%. But he was missing two assignments. So he got a B in Computer Science.
He eeked out a very low B (80%) in English. His English teacher gave him every opportunity to do the work – and turn it in late, which Dylan did with nearly every assignment, including written assignments that were supposed to be done in class. Still, Dylan is missing one assignment completely. That, coupled with low grades on “reading checks” got him an 80% – barely a B.
In Biology, his teacher (surprise!) wouldn’t accept two assignments that she’d asked for repeatedly that he finally turned in – on the last day of the quarter. So Dylan got his first C this quarter.
It’s not his only C, though. In History, Dylan had five missing assignments, and he didn’t study for quizzes or tests. His grades reflect that – and he got another C in History.
Perhaps the saddest grade is from Geometry. Dylan now has a Geometry teacher he adores, and he expected to get an A in the class. And he got almost exclusively A’s during the quarter. Then, right before the quarter ended, he got a C on a quiz, and then failed a test, bringing his overall grade down to a B.
He was busy scrambling to catch up in his other classes, and just didn’t take the time to keep up with Geometry.
In fact, the absolute worst thing about the entire third quarter was watching Dylan helplessly during the last two weeks. He was desperately trying to dig himself out from under the pile of rubble that he created, but the pile was just too huge. He ignored his work for so long; there was no way to do it all.
So he has one A, two C’s and four B’s.
A lot of parents would be thrilled with these grades for an unmedicated child with ADHD. And maybe I should be thrilled.
But I want Dylan to have his choice of colleges. I want him to get in everywhere he wants to go, even if that’s an unrealistic goal. I want him to be able to choose his future. I want him to enjoy – not just college but his work, and his life.
And no matter what job he has, even if he is somehow catapulted to super-stardom, Dylan is going to have responsibility. He’s going to have to show up on time. He’s going to have to meet deadlines. He’s going to have to turn in his work on time, whatever his work may be.
And he just hasn’t learned how to do that yet.
I don’t care about the grades. I care about his future.
Today, Dylan got his braces off.
He looks stunning, like someone out of a magazine. He’s happy and smiling huge like he did when he was little. But now, his teeth are straighter and his smile is even more beautiful (if that’s possible) than it was then.
No one expected it to happen today – least of all me. Dylan did great with his braces, until he was in the final stretch. During the last few months, he was supposed to wear rubber bands.
Dylan didn’t wear his rubber bands faithfully. In fact, he almost never wore them. He would show up for his appointment and the orthodontist would say, “They look pretty good. Are you wearing the rubber bands?”
“Yeah,” Dylan would say. Simultaneously I would say, “No.”
So at every visit, the orthodontist would say, “You need to wear the rubber bands for longer every day, to make up for the time you didn’t wear them before.”
During the past month, he was supposed to wear the rubber bands for 12 hours a day, with an extra rubber band in the front, to make up for his not wearing rubber bands for four months.
And for the past month, every night, Dylan was supposed to put on his three rubber bands at 6:30 p.m. Invariably, I would remind him at 10 or 11 o’clock at night to put rubber bands in – and he would say, “Oh, I forgot.”
So it was a surprise to everyone when, today, the orthodontist said, “He’s 98% done. And since he’s obviously not going to wear the rubber bands, I think we’re going to take them off.”
And so, they’re off. And Dylan looks gorgeous.
And I can’t help but think, gee, my five months of nagging about rubber bands was utterly useless.
Today is the last day of the third quarter.
According to the online system, Dylan is still missing a ton of work. But he assures me that he has turned in most of it – or, at least, he thinks he turned in most of it.
“For some of it,” he says with genuine surprise, “I was just too late.”
He’s referring to assignments that were due months ago, that he’d like to turn in today, please.
On Wednesday, he came home with a ton of work to do for English. He had two major assignments that were still “zeros” in the grade book. Dylan spent more than an hour working on them, even after a five-hour play rehearsal. He was exhausted and finally – eventually – went to bed.
On Thursday, I emailed his teacher to make sure he got the assignments (finally) from Dylan. It was really overkill, I know, but Dylan really worked hard on those assignments.
At the end of the day, I got an email. “He had neither of the two assignments listed,” he said. “Dylan told me that he has done them, but that he didn’t turn them in.”
Immediately, I texted Dylan – who claimed everything was done, really, but he didn’t know how to turn in the assignments.
There is no logic in this. It just doesn’t make any sense.
There is nothing rational about being in a classroom for seven months, talking to the teacher after class nearly every day, and not knowing HOW to turn in work.
So Dylan came home with less than 12 hours to get those assignments turned in – two months overdue – and he went upstairs to his computer. Half an hour later I asked him what he was doing.
“I’m adding another paragraph, to make it really good,” he said.
Another half-hour went by. “Did you turn in your English yet?” I asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Let me check.”
Let me CHECK?!?
Ten minutes later: “What are you doing, Dylan?”
“I’m turning in my work. Apparently it didn’t go through the first time.”
Perhaps, Dylan actually did what he was supposed to do.
Perhaps he did not.
If he did, he may get a B in the class. If he didn’t, he will have a pretty solid D.
In spite of all my meddling and the substantial teacher assistance, there is nothing anyone else can do.
Dylan’s fate lies squarely with Dylan.