Month: September 2016

Teachers Have a Very, Very, Very Hard Job.

So I have started my substitute teaching career.

Having worked as a one-on-one “home and hospital” teacher for the past few years, I was nervous about going into a school – and not being recognized as a parent. When I walk into a school as a substitute, I am just that: a substitute.

Parents always get great treatment.

But I’ve substituted a few times now, in different grades and positions, and I have been having a ton of fun. In fact, I’ve been clamoring for jobs on the computerized system almost every night. I am excited to be back in a work environment, and around the children. I am excited to have something to do besides plan my next college tour.

And already, I have learned a few things that I forgot when I was teaching (during the dark ages):

  1. Teachers have a very, very, very hard job. Keeping kids entertained for a single hour – especially a large group of kids – and educating them is nearly impossible. And teachers have to do just that for seven hours, five days a week! Substituting means that someone else has to think up “the plan” – how to entertain and educate the kids. This is, by far, the hardest part of the job – and I don’t have to do it. (This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the obscene amount of work they have to do after planning: grading, discipline, dealing with parents, staff, administrators and other teachers, and answering emails from helicopter parents like … well, like some parents.)
  2. Kindergarteners are cute, but teaching them is like herding goats. After only two weeks of substituting, I broadened my horizons from “only elementary school” to “elementary and middle school.” I like kids who are old enough to help me do what I need to do, like find the cafeteria and use the classroom technology.
  3. No matter what age I teach, I compare all the kids to my own. I can’t help but recommend occasional “exercise time” for the kids, given that Dylan needs exercise the way he needs air. And I can’t help but notice how many underappreciated kids there are, who make no waves and cause no distress, and get completely ignored. I give them special attention too, because of Shane.

I think substituting is going to be good for my parenting – and good for me, period. I need to work. Teaching one kid is very rewarding, and I intend to continue doing that. But being in the school, being reminded of what my kids have gone through … there’s something precious about that, too.


Why Do We Twist It So That It’s Bad News?

THIS is why I don’t watch (or listen to) the news.

I heard a report on our local news station that said (paraphrased by my memory), “Brain cancer is now the deadliest cancer among children.”

This is news because, as we all know, brain cancer is a horrific and deadly disease. So this is news.

Okay, I thought. Brain cancer must be on the rise.

But no.

There was a very small snippet – an almost ignored snippet – of a quote from an expert, someone who worked on the report for this finding.

She said, “This news is largely due to the higher success rates in treatment of leukemia patients.”

In other words, I thought, this is good news. Leukemia deaths are down, which has made brain cancer rise to the top of the heap of deadly cancers.

But the local radio station ignored this quote. They went right on, very quickly, almost talking over the “expert,” to spout some statistics about how deadly brain cancer is, and how many child deaths per year are attributed to cancer.

It was like they didn’t hear her at all.

Leukemia deaths are down! I wanted to scream. Why can’t they announce THAT? Why can’t THAT be the top story? 

Because the only news that brings in ratings is news that promotes fear.

That’s why I despise the media.

It’s why, back in the day, I stopped chasing a career in journalism. I wanted to write – not to report everything bad that was happening in the world.

Why can’t we report that a dog had puppies, and encourage people to come out and see them?

Why can’t we make a big fuss about the Teacher of the Year awards instead of focusing on the teacher who sent inappropriate texts to a teenager?

Why can’t we talk about the hardworking people in their offices all over the country, who have little successes every day that keep them coming back to their jobs, instead of waiting for someone to get caught embezzling millions of dollars so we can report the crime?

Why do we report only shootings and diseases and acts of violence and crime? Why don’t we ever report anything good?

Even when there’s good news to report, why do we twist it so that it becomes bad news?

I am stepping down off of my soapbox with just one tidbit of information:

Leukemia deaths are down. Good job, leukemia scientists!

I Cry Because I Can’t Catch It.

I cry a lot lately.

I don’t know how often, or why, or even what causes it – but I can pinpoint when it started.

It started with childbirth.

I suppose I could blame hormones, although blaming anything for 15 years doesn’t make a lot of sense. Ever since Dylan was born – and equally so with Shane – I cry so easily, so frequently, it’s like there’s a river of tears just rushing around behind my eyes, and they escape without any true provocation.

I cry when my child does something wonderful. Oddly, I cry less often when my child does something that hurts. I used to cry when my kids got shots – but only if they cried. This, I learned, didn’t help matters.

So I have limited my crying more to the wonderful things, like when they are singing, or being funny, or just doing an incredibly good job. Then I cry.

I also cry during TV shows – sometimes not even sappy TV shows, but at sappy moments during intense dramas. I cry when a child gets hurt on TV. I cry when a child on TV is sad. I cry when a TV mom is worried about her children. I cry during all Disney movies.

Luckily, I haven’t seen Bambi since the children were born. I don’t think I could survive it.

I cry during touching commercials. This is particularly embarrassing, but I just blame the background music.

Which brings me to another point: I cry most often when there is music. I cry when I hear a new song, and Shane is sharing it with me. I cry when I hear an old song, and Dylan is singing along. I cry when I think about an old song, and how long it’s been since I heard it, and how sad it is that my kids don’t know it.

I cry when there’s a remake of an old song, and they’ve turned it into a new song, and my kids know the remake, but I don’t. I cry because I know the world has moved on so fast and furiously that my kids are hearing remakes of remakes, and they think the songs are new.

I cry because the world is moving on so fast.

I cry because no matter how fast it moves, I can’t slow it down for one second. I cry because I am so incredibly moved by a moment in time – one moment, any moment – that I hope to remember forever, even as I am watching it slip away.

I cry because it slips away, and because I know it always will. I cry because I can’t catch it, can’t hang onto it, can’t make every moment stay longer. I cry because I can’t hold on.

I cry because I love these moments with my children so much, so painfully much, that I want them to last forever.

And they can’t.

And that’s okay, because it’s not my job to make the world stop. It’s not my job to make time stop. And no matter how much I wish time would slow down, just let me appreciate it for a moment longer, the best I can do is to take snapshots and make memories and write them down and soak in every moment I can, even as those moments are passing me by.

I cry because I can’t stop time.

My job, apparently, is just to watch it go.

I Was Very Excited to See Shane.

Dylan and I went out of town for four days to see a music college that Dylan might love. Shane and Bill stayed behind and had a mini-vacation of their own.

Dylan and I had a reasonably wonderful time, arguing only when I mentioned homework, or asked him to try to move more quickly, or told him to put his phone away. Again.

Shane is still a pre-teen. He claims that he’s a tween now. In fact, there are moments when Shane’s behavior utterly stuns me, and I realize that his day, too, will come, when he goes from beautiful baby boy to independent young man.

So when I got home from four days on the road, I was very excited to see Shane. Even though everyone had fun – including Shane and Bill – I’d missed Shane tremendously.

We pulled into the garage and I started to open my door – but a flash that was Shane zipped past like lightning. I got out of the car and looked back, behind the car, where Dylan – cell phone in hand – had gotten out of the car and had been walking toward the house… when Shane arrived.

Shane was hugging Dylan with every ounce of strength he had. And Dylan was hugging Shane back.

Shane is still almost a foot shorter than Dylan, and they were clasped together like that for full minutes. Neither one wanted to let go, and I’m not sure who was happier about the reunion.

I missed my baby, and missed my hug, and missed being the one to whom Shane runs.

But the sight of the two of them so happy to see each other…. Nothing can beat that.

Why Do You Have to Tell Me Absolutely Everything?

I was trying to remember why I started my “stop-talking-to-Dylan-so-we-can-stop-arguing” revelation.

It happened one night at dinner.

I’d made pasta with a red sauce – except for Shane, who eats his pasta with no sauce. I’d heated up the sauce in the microwave (because that’s just the kind of cook I am), and cleaned the microwave afterward, since a tiny bit of the red sauce splattered on its walls.

Then I prepared the pasta as is the Hawkins custom – sitting in the sink in a colander for a “serve yourself” kind of entree.

As usual, Dylan was late appearing for the family meal, so his dinner was rather cold when he got to the table.

He started walking toward the microwave with his uncovered bowl of pasta with red sauce.

I remembered that I had just cleaned the microwave. It only took a second to do, but if he put that pasta into the microwave without covering it….

Don’t say anything, my brain screamed. If he makes a mess, he can clean it up.

BUT I JUST CLEANED IT! the other part of my brain screamed back.

Choose your battles, said the first part of my brain. If he forgets to cover it, he can clean the microwave.

The words came flying out of my mouth in spite of my ongoing internal dialogue.

“Please cover your plate, Dylan,” I said, almost whining.


His reaction was a bit over the top. So I left the room, and ate my pasta elsewhere.

But I thought, That wasn’t his fault. I knew better. I knew I shouldn’t say anything, and I opened my mouth anyway.

Maybe I’ve had this revelation before. If so, I had forgotten.

But this time, I let it stick – at least for awhile.

I stopped saying anything. I told Dylan the next day that I was going to try very hard – although I was sure I wouldn’t be perfect – to say only things that were positive and encouraging. And that I would no longer tell him what to do.

This came on the heels of Dylan not feeding his crabs the way I thought they should be fed, not keeping his shoes clean the way I thought they should be cleaned, and not spending the appropriate amount of time learning the songs I thought he should sing.

So I shut up. And things are going amazingly smoothly.

At least for now.

This is Where I’m From.

Shane doesn’t like writing poetry, but he wrote this for English class. I know it’s supposed to be my blog, and I should write everything, but I am just so proud. Today, Shane is writing my blog for me. I will just sit back and read it. And again. And again.

Shane had a vision processing disorder when he was young, and couldn’t read without the words jumping around on the page. He went through years of therapy, just to be able to get through a Dr. Seuss book. Now he’s writing poetry, and I cry every time I read it.

There’s a ton of depth and meaning in this thing. Anyone know the shooting star story? Shane does. Anyway, I just love it. So here it is.


This is Where I’m From



I am from the radio of pop music

From peaceful songs and horror stories

I am from the white and black home

Where the smooth walls are ecstatic to see you

I am from the sycamore tree

With leaves of green, It continues to grow


I’m from celebrating Christmas and loving my family

From William and Keith

I’m from playing games and eating dinner

And from using electronic devices

I’m from I love you to the moon and back and you’re mine

And you’re my angel baby

I’m from Pizza and movie night


I’m from the United States and Maryland

Pancakes and Chicken Saute

From a shooting star

And making people happy


I am from the bible

On the book shelf

I am from Christianity

The peace that it brings to my family


It’s Your Life and They’re Your Grades.

Dylan’s case manager sent me an email, midway through the third week of school.

For those of you not fortunate enough to have a child with “special needs,” a case manager is the person who helps Dylan keep track of stuff at school. Dylan’s case manager is astoundingly wonderful, almost to the point of becoming a superhero. I adore her.

She emailed me as if I had no idea what was going on with Dylan’s grades.

“He is missing one item from every class,” she said, “except for two missing assignments in Spanish, which is bringing his grades down across the board.”

She sent me a screen shot of his grades as they now stand: no grades yet in his two electives. In his important subjects, he has two D’s and three E’s (the nice way of saying “F”). And it is only the 10th day of school.

I wrote a note back to the case manager, who knows I am usually a helicopter mom. To the best of my ability, I explained my situation:

I am trying very hard to let Dylan take care of Dylan’s stuff. Still, I mentioned his missing work to him about 14 times over the weekend. He assures me that it is ALL turned in (even though he doesn’t seem to know what is missing). He also says that he’s totally ‘got it’ – even though I don’t think he really does ‘have it.’

I am sure that this is typical teen but, given his ADHD, I have no idea how much of the missing assignments can be attributed to brain misfires, and how much is due to Dylan being irresponsible.

Luckily, Dylan really wants to drive – and we have a school year contract that says (in so many words): ‘It’s your life, and they’re your grades. Flunk 10th grade or go to the college you love; it’s your choice. But don’t expect us to teach you to drive if you continue to be irresponsible.’

I think Dylan is not on drugs, not harming himself or anyone else, is obsessed with something good (music) and really wants to go to college. So I *want* to jump in and save his grades. But I am not going to do it. Thanks for keeping me posted, though, because I still worry about him every day (all day) and it is REALLY good to have you in there, helping and being on his side!

We will see if he actually does listen to her.

I can’t do anything at all.

I Decided to Say Nothing at All.

When the grading system went “live” on the computer – meaning, the grades were posted for parents for the first time since the kids started school, I learned two things:

  1. Shane is going to need a tutor for Algebra I. This is no surprise, since I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have trouble with algebra – except the tutors.
  2. Dylan was failing three classes – one of which was Algebra II. This is also no surprise, since Dylan is in charge of Dylan from now on.

I called Bill first, in my panic, and talked for ten minutes about what “we” should do. I sent emails to a few teachers – who haven’t even gotten Dylan’s IEP yet – and asked if he was doing okay. My emails were concise and rather vague: he has an IEP so you might need to talk to him individually.

Then I listened to Kirk Martin’s CD about teenagers with ADHD – and was reminded to remain calm. (I still believe that the hundreds of dollars we invested in Kirk Martin CDs saved Dylan’s life.)

Then, after my initial panic, and the very few emails, I decided to say nothing at all.

I called Bill and told him not to say anything, either. “This is Dylan’s job,” I reminded him. “If he fails 10th grade, then he fails 10th grade.”

I wrote a note to Dylan. It said that Edline went live and he needed to check it. I left the note on his bed.

Then, I said absolutely not one word to Dylan about his grades or his missing assignments or what he should do.

Dylan got my note, and mentioned it on the way to his voice lesson.

“By the way, I took care of all of that,” Dylan said.

“All of what?” I asked.

“All the missing stuff,” he said.

“Which missing stuff?”

“The stuff in Spanish mostly,” he said. “It would help a lot of the teacher would speak English long enough for me to know what she’s asking for. She says, ‘Deberes’ and then I don’t understand anything after that so I just ask somebody else what she said but nobody seems to know.”

Dylan was missing all of his assignments in Spanish 2, including one worth 40 points.

“What’s ‘deberes?'” I asked.

Homework,” he said.

I laughed. “Well, you know more than I do!” I said.

I didn’t say a word about his missing assignment in English, his missing assignment in AP Computer Science, or his poor grades in algebra. He went off to his voice lesson.

He says he’s going to take care of it.

HE is going to take care of it. It is not my problem anymore.


They’re Closing Tower of Terror.

Dylan texted me early one Saturday morning. It said: “I have just found out the worst news ever.”

Luckily, I didn’t see the text right away, or I might have gone into cardiac arrest.

Dylan thundered upstairs shortly thereafter to find me.

“Did you see my text?” he said.

“No, I didn’t see your text,” I said. It was only 8:00 in the morning.

“I’ve just heard some really bad news,” Dylan said. “I mean, it really is almost the worst news ever.”

I was certain someone had died. Someone I really loved, like a family member.

But I would have heard about that. So maybe it was someone I really loved … but didn’t know, like Rod Stewart.

“Oh no,” I moaned. “What is it?”

“They’re closing Tower of Terror,” Dylan said.

My stomach suddenly felt like there was a bowling ball inside. Denial kicked in: “No they’re not,” I sputtered. “They can’t be!”

“They are,” Dylan repeated.

“When?” I squeaked, realizing that there was little chance we’d get to Disney World again before the family’s all-time favorite ride disappeared forever.

“Like January,” he said.

“Oh no,” I moaned. “No, no, no…”

Tower of Terror is an awesome ride. It’s incredibly scary – so much so that we had to ride it without Shane during our first trip to Disney World – but it is also incredibly fun. It’s like a wild frogger ride, where whole families plummet randomly in an insane elevator. Best of all, the ride changes every time for an added thrill.

It’s the kind of ride our family can ride over and over and over and over … and, on our few trips to Disney World, that’s exactly what we’ve done. We have ridden Tower of Terror for more than an hour – just that one ride – and never tired of it.

We’ve done this several times with great success and happiness. All four of us love it. We own t-shirts so that we can broadcast our love of this ride all year long. And we still believe we haven’t ridden it nearly enough.

So the news that our favorite ride was closing came as a very despairing shock.

I told Shane, our family’s amusement park and rides expert, that Dylan said Tower of Terror was closing.

His eyes widened and his voice got very quiet. “Is it true?” he whispered.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I have to look it up.”

I looked it up on the internet. The Tower of Terror ride is closing.

But not really. 

Not our Tower of Terror.

Upon closer inspection, the Tower of Terror ride that is closing is not in Disney World, where we’ve vacationed so happily.

The Tower of Terror ride that is closing is in Disneyland. It is located in the California park, where we’ve never been.

We all nearly cried with happiness.

Whew, I sighed. The perfection of my little world hasn’t crumbled after all.

And Then I Went to Work.

On the first day of school, I remembered to take pictures of the boys as they headed off. It was the first time in the history of their young lives that we had NO prior “back-to-school” activity. We didn’t meet and greet with teachers. We didn’t go to the school and find out who would be teaching them. We didn’t even have the added assistance of a lengthy orientation process to welcome us to a new school.

They just … went to school.

I took the dog for a walk. I was also starting my new fitness regime, which means I am now taking the dog for daily walks.

And then I went to work.

By that I mean, I had ten billion things scheduled to do. I needed to call the substitute teaching office and sign up for orientation. I needed to look over the list of students to be taught at home. I still do the “home and hospital” teaching for the public schools. I needed to check my work email – and my home email, of course.

I did all of it in ten minutes. I even checked – and responded to – my emails in that time.

Then I went to work on the calendar. I was changing over to the new 2016-17 calendar. I spent nearly an hour scribbling events and times on the new calendar. I even stuck stickers on it, where appropriate.

And when I looked at the clock, I had only one hour before Dylan would be hopping on his bus to come home. Where did the day go? Oh! And I forgot to take a shower!

To think, I thought I’d have time for a nap.

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