Month: December 2016


Maybe I Have More Time Than I Think.

Sitting around waiting to get well gives one plenty of time to think. And with the holiday season ending (without me being a part of it) and 2016 coming to a close, I have lost my ability to do anything but think.

I’m astounded at the amount of time I waste.

I’ve been relegated to the couch for so long that I recognize commercials before they start. The charities are out in full force, grasping for last-minute donors, and I am lying on a couch.

This means that I am not only a captive audience, but I must donate.

I wonder why it costs 66 cents a day to save a child with cancer, but it costs 65 cents a day to save a dog that’s been left chained to a frozen doghouse. After six days, I leapt up from the couch, raced to the computer, and became a member of the ASPCA. It was my last chance for a 150-year celebratory t-shirt. The dying children will have to find help elsewhere.

I don’t take this action lightly. I am seriously offended by the issues in the world. But while these commercials play when I am not watching, spending a full week watching has made me aware that there is probably more that I could be doing. Maybe I could be donating my time to a local rescue. Why have I not done this?

When I am well, I don’t contemplate donating my time – because I don’t have any. I am too busy with the kids.

But maybe I have more time than I think.

I spend a lot of time worrying. I spend a lot of time planning for things that haven’t happened yet, and worrying about things that might happen during the time for which I am planning.

I rarely live in the moment.

Meanwhile, as I’ve been staring at the television, George Michael’s life ended. Like most 80’s children, I adored George Michael. Then Carrie Fisher died, whose books and stand-up comedy I thoroughly enjoyed. Like most Baby Boomers, I lump these two together in the “horrific tragedies” and “much too young” categories, along with Prince and David Bowie and Glenn Frey – who also died this year. I try not to think about their families, or it will remind me of my own family, my own mortality, and how incredibly, ridiculously, absurdly SHORT is this time on Earth. I prefer to remember these abstract people, these people I never met, these larger-than-life personas.

It is easier to dwell on that.

I don’t think about my kids during this time, because I miss them so obsessively, so painfully, while I sit alone and they play together elsewhere.

I don’t think about them, how old they are, how old I am, how sick I am, how fragile life is.

I don’t think about it, the way a dog doesn’t think about the bone he just buried, in the dirt right under his nose, directly in front of him. I don’t think about it the way the dog doesn’t think about it, even as his stomach yowls and he starts digging.

Instead I think about what to do when I’m better. I think about the family videos I haven’t seen in a decade, the videos I swear, every year, that I’ll transfer to DVD.

I think about spending less time on the computer and more time with my kids, who are already too old for me.

I think about resolutions.

Even as I plan to live in the moment, I am planning.

I Think It’s the Caffeine Pill.

The day Dylan got the flu, he blamed it on the caffeine pill he took that morning.

He took 200 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent of two cups of coffee) at 7 a.m. He was fine all day. At 2 p.m., he felt sick.

I went to pick him up at school.

“I think it’s the caffeine pill,” he said. “I’ve been shaky and I have a headache. I didn’t even want to eat my sandwich today.”

“Did you drink the coffee from your lunchbox?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I drank a little bit of it in seventh period. And that’s when I started to feel sick.”

“Maybe the coffee interacted with the pill,” I said, not knowing. Until that day, he’d only had unsweetened iced tea in his lunchbox. Maybe the additional coffee “kicker” was too strong.

I took Dylan home.

Later – much later – we realized that Dylan had the flu, complete with vomiting and fever. The pill had nothing to do with his illness.

Yet three days later, when he was feeling better and we’d cleared the caffeine pill from any wrongdoing, Dylan didn’t want to take his usual dose in the morning.

“You’re going to need it next week,” I told him. “It will help you make up the work you missed while you were sick.”

“Okay,” he said. But next week came and went, and he still refused to take a caffeine pill.

Dylan got further and further behind in his work. He got sick again and missed more school.

“Why don’t you take a caffeine pill today?” I asked him one random morning, weeks after the flu.

“No!” he shrieked. “I don’t like it! It makes me anxious and shaky and it makes everything worse!”

None of those things are true, I thought. In fact, he had no side effects whatsoever, except for being able to actually finish his work in class.

I think he’s confusing the caffeine pill with the ADHD medication he took years ago.

Dylan, however, doesn’t think that. He thinks he gets anxious and nervous and shaky on the caffeine pill. But when he drinks caffeine in coffee or tea, he has no side effects – except that it helps him focus.

So now I give him coffee in the morning. And I give him coffee or unsweetened tea in his lunchbox. It helps him to get through school.

Heaven forbid he gets the flu again. Who knows what he’ll blame then?

I Got Antibiotics for Christmas.

So I kind of missed Christmas.

I came home from substitute teaching on Thursday with a fever. As I had for the prior three days, I immediately took a nap.

Days followed – and I felt worse. And worse, and worse. The fever never disappeared, except for a few minutes – hours? – at a time. On the night before Christmas Eve, I was still somewhat upright. But by Christmas Eve, I was bedridden.

By Christmas morning, the fever was gone – or so I thought. I watched the kids open their presents, feeling bad but not awful. I honestly believe God gave me a reprieve so that I could enjoy the moment.

I had a very merry Christmas morning.

Except the fever came back again.

Over the course of the holiday, Bill did everything. The man is a complete saint.

The dog never left my side. Unfortunately, that also meant she vomited on my bed, straight through two comforters that then required washing – so Bill just added that to his list of things to do.

I wasn’t any help. I didn’t go anywhere, or do anything. I still got to see family, and when the kids were home, I was well enough to enjoy their presence.

But I slept a lot.

And by this morning, I needed a doctor.

So, I went to a doctor. He claimed that I may have an upper respiratory infection, since I am not getting better. (I didn’t really make a deal of the fact that I was progressively getting worse.) Although they didn’t come until December 26, I got antibiotics for Christmas.

Hopefully, soon I will be well enough to enjoy the rest of the break with my family. It was a different kind of Christmas, but I got what I wanted most: a relatively happy family.

Oh, and the antibiotics.

I Feel Like Alpha Dog With Only Three Legs.

I got an email about another missing assignment for Dylan.

“When are you going to do this, Dylan?” I asked. He only had two days of school left before the holiday break.

“I guess I’ll do it at school tomorrow,” he said.

“You still have two tests to make up in school, and eight missing assignments in Spanish. You need to do this tonight.”

“I can’t do it tonight.”

“You can,” I said. “And you will. I will be here at 8:35 and you can get it done tonight.”

“I can’t do it tonight,” he said. “My brain is just fried.”

“I’ll see you at 8:35,” I said.

At 8:40, I went up to his room.

“Let’s go, Dylan,” I said. “You’ve got to get this done.”

“I have like two whole days to get it done. I’m not going to do it now.”

“You are going to do it now,” I said. I rarely put my foot down on such things, since it’s his right to fail, but he had been begging to keep his role in the play, which he can’t do if his GPA drops is below a 2.0.

He stomped downstairs.

I sat with him for half an hour while he stared at the computer. Then he typed some crap about hating school. Then he had a major temper tantrum and stormed upstairs raging. Then he left the house (in the freezing cold) and didn’t come back for half an hour. Then he came back, still screaming about how he simply couldn’t possibly do this work tonight.

Dylan had a major meltdown.

Frustrated, I asked Bill to sit with Dylan and make sure he got the work done. So Bill sat with him until almost midnight.

But Bill didn’t “make” Dylan do his work. In fact, Bill sat there and philosophized instead. So Bill got points for being Savior of the Day and Kind Soul, while I was branded Wicked Witch of the Schoolwork.

So now I know – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that I can’t trust Bill to do any disciplining – which, quite honestly, I already knew. I know Bill would rather avoid conflict than stand his ground.

It’s why I have to be in charge, tired as I am of being in charge. I feel like Alpha Dog with only three legs.

The next day, Dylan texted about how evil I am. He said I need to stay out of his life and that my “love” feels like “hate.”

Later in the day, he told Shane that the reason Dylan gets bad grades is because I stress him out. 

And Shane believed him.

If I weren’t so awful, Dylan would be getting wonderful grades. He would surely be turning in all of his work on time. He would absolutely be doing fine without any interference from me.

So I stopped interfering. Again.

Because it’s been proven, time and again, that Dylan has no trouble at all handling his schoolwork all by himself. (Note the sarcasm dripping from this sentiment.)

Dylan thinks he’s going to fly through the rest of the quarter, getting everything done without talking to any teachers or checking his grades online. He thinks he’s going to miraculously figure out what’s due, and turn it in on time, for the first time in the history of the world, without changing any of his behaviors.

He thinks he’s going to keep his lead role in the play.

But he will not.

And somehow, that will be my fault, too.

Merry Christmas to me.

I’ve Been Watching Shane.

When Shane finished his vision therapy – after 18 months and $20,000 – the doctor gave us two things: instructions about how to sit when reading, and $300 glasses with no discernable prescription in the lenses. He was instructed to wear these glasses at all times.

Shane never sat the right way when reading. He sits all hunched over, too close to the book, with the world’s worst posture. In other words, he reads like I do.

About six months later, I learned that Shane’s friend was reading small print for him because Shane couldn’t see it.

So we went to a vision specialist, and got Shane a prescription for lenses that would help him read. Shane wore his glasses for more than a year – well into fourth grade – before he suddenly decided he didn’t need them anymore. Later, we found out that his eyesight had corrected itself.

But then there was this test, where he didn’t make his goal. And suddenly I’m panicked because – what if? What if Shane’s posture caused him to have trouble again? What if he should have worn his prescription-free lenses longer? What if all that therapy suddenly reversed itself and Shane reverted back to being unable to read?

So I’ve been watching Shane, looking for signs of vision processing relapse.

I’ve paid close attention to how he reads. I’ve asked him to read things out loud that, normally, I would know he knew. I’ve checked and double-checked that he’s not flipping numbers when he does his math homework. And I’ve really listened when he talked about any struggles – although none of them seem to be related, except for the standardized test.

Shane came to me one day and said, “Mom, maybe my vision processing is coming back.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I was reading the word ‘brain’ on somebody’s shirt, and I thought it said, ‘Brian.'”

“I can see why you would think that,” I said, “but that is perfectly normal.” I realized that I – and most people – have done similar word flips throughout their lives, without any harsh repurcussions.

In fact, now that his test is over, there don’t seem to be any signs of relapse at all. Perhaps he just didn’t do well on his test. I always tested better in math than I did in English, especially in vocabulary, all the way up to the SATs. I hate math, and I love words. But my test scores sure didn’t show that.

So I don’t think Shane’s having a relapse of vision processing disorder.

I am thrilled and relieved, and I also feel a bit stupid.

But mostly I’m just thrilled and relieved.

You Have a List?

When I discovered the plummeting of Dylan’s grades, I texted Dylan. I won’t go into the details about which grades had tanked and why, but the gist – as always – was that he hadn’t finished a whole slew of stuff. And some of the stuff that he thought he’d finished, he’d never turned in.

We texted for 20 minutes back and forth. Dylan was down on himself. I was trying to remain positive. I had recently come to the conclusion – again – that we needed to focus more on his brilliance and less on his disability. (It’s just that his disability is so darn prevalent!)

Dylan met with his case manager on Friday, and didn’t text me again after that. But when he came home, he was full of resolve.

“I spent today at lunchtime getting caught up on Algebra. Then basically, Monday is NSL day,” he said, referring to all the missing Work he had in U.S. Government class. “On Tuesday, I’m going to finish my Algebra test and my Computer Science test because now I only have like three questions on each of those.”

“What are you going to do this weekend?”

“Spanish,” he said, almost laughing. “I have a lot to do to get caught up in Spanish.”

“What about English?” I asked. Somehow Dylan, who really doesn’t want to write, always procrastinates worst with English.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “This weekend I’m going to do the 21 questions that I somehow missed in English, too.”

Then he trotted upstairs. About twenty minutes later, he came downstairs.

“And Gretchen helped me make a plan,” he said. (I had never heard of Gretchen before and, quite honestly, I can’t remember who actually helped him make the plan.)

“What kind of plan?” I asked.

“We had a sub, so she said she was really organized and would help me make a list of all the stuff I needed to do. So we spent all of third period going over all the stuff.”

“You have a list?” I asked, incredulous. I’ve been telling him to make a list since …. well, forever.

“Yeah,” he said. “And it’s all prioritized with what I should do first and stuff.”

“Great,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s really nice having friends.”

Then he trotted upstairs again.

Dylan’s birthday was this weekend, so we tried to make it a nice one. But then we forced him to do some work on Sunday.

“It’s only going to take 20 minutes!” he said.

An hour later, we told him he needed to finish up.

“I’m almost done!” he said.

After that hour, he didn’t do a single thing. He swears that everything needs to be done during school, and that his GPA is going to skyrocket just as soon as these next few days pass.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, His Grades Plummet.

Dylan was out of school – sick – for three days in as many weeks. And he’s had two choral field trips.

He’s never recovered – although physically, he is well.

At school, he can’t catch up.

He’s been behind before. In fact, he is almost always behind. He started off the quarter going full-force. He came home with work, announced it, went and did it. He worked during lunches and after school. He caught up in everything. He swore he was aiming for straight A’s this quarter.

And then he just … stopped.

He doesn’t talk to his teachers. He doesn’t make up his tests. He doesn’t show up when he says he will, to finish work that needs to be finished.

Then – after a choral field trip or a play rehearsal lasting several hours – Dylan comes home claiming that he has no homework. He doesn’t study for anything. He doesn’t complete classwork that’s missing.

In fact, he doesn’t do anything at all at home.

“Dylan,” I say. “Don’t you have anything at all you can do for school? You have three D’s and a C.”

“There’s nothing I can do at home,” he says. “I have to do all that stuff at school.”

“Let’s look online together,” I say. “Let’s see what you have.”

He rolls his eyes and huffs. We look online together.

“I did ALL of that,” he tells me. “Just because it says it’s not done on the computer doesn’t mean it’s really not turned in.”

Then he goes up to his keyboard and sits and plays music. He does this for hours.

Meanwhile, his grades plummet. He failed a unit test in computer science – again. This is the second unit test he’s failed (of two) and there is no way to bring up those grades. He can’t “retake” a test like he did in middle school. Meanwhile, he’s not getting his work turned in, either, so all of his grades are dropping.

And I am just watching the landslide.

Again.

He Would Love to Play Willy Wonka.

And just when we all thought the auditions were finally over….

Dylan, as you may recall from my last blog post, was very sick and missed school again on Monday.

I got a call early on Monday morning from Dylan’s drama director. First, I thought she was the school’s automated system, calling me for a substitute teaching job. Thinking she was an automated robot, I hung up on her.

When the phone rang again, I answered the phone and waited for the robot to start talking.

After a long pause and no robot, I said, “Hello?”

Dylan’s director introduced herself and said, “I’ve had a lot of people drop out of the play over the weekend, and I’ve had to do some recasting. Would Dylan be interested in playing the role of Willy Wonka instead of Grandpa Joe?”

My heart leaped for him. WOULD he! He would be delighted! He would be over the moon! Yes! Yes! He would LOVE that!

But Dylan was asleep, with a 101-degree fever, and it wasn’t my decision to make. I knew he’d like to play Willy Wonka, but I didn’t feel right accepting the role for him.

But … I’m his mom. At that exact moment, my main job was to let him sleep, hopefully to get over his fever and get plenty of much-needed rest.

“Um, well, Dylan’s sick,” I sputtered.

“I heard he was sick,” she said. “That’s why I’m calling him at home.”

I had to do something – fast. I couldn’t wake him up. I just couldn’t. Still, she needed an answer, so she could move forward.

“Yes, sure,” I said. “He could do that. He would love to play Willy Wonka.”

“Okay, thanks,” she said, and hung up, presumably to go and cast the rest of the play.

I printed out a Congratulations Mr. Wonka note, complete with a picture from the book by Roald Dahl, and put it in front of Dylan’s door.

Two hours later, Dylan woke up and came downstairs.

“Really?” he croaked, hair askew and barely awake.

“Really,” I said.

He smiled a huge smile. “That’s awesome,” he said.

Then we had a long talk about the expectations of the directors, and what his commitment means to the cast. I reminded Dylan to treat this role like a job. Dylan is excellent at jobs. He works hardest when he knows people are depending on him. He never lets up, not even for a moment, and he gives it everything he’s got.

Dylan is not as good at school, and it is a school play. But in this case, I think he can transfer his professionalism to where it’s needed most.

Because people sure are depending on him.

His Fever Hit With a Vengeance.

While Shane was auditioning for his play (and waiting for callbacks, and the cast list to be posted), Dylan was sick.

I mean, Dylan was really sick. He called me to get him from school. Then he vomited in the school parking lot, and spent days in bed with a fever. It was horrific.

I canceled work – lots of it. While Bill cleaned up most of the stray vomit (thank God for my husband), I spent my time washing sheets and pillows and towels and comforters, and chasing down sugary drinks that Dylan would drink, so as not to be dehydrated.

Right after Shane’s cast list was posted, Shane got sick. He was achy and had a fever and was in bed for days. While most of Shane’s sickness happened on the weekend, he still missed some school. So I canceled work and spent my time washing more sheets and comforters, and chasing down sugary drinks that Shane would drink, preferably ones with Vitamin C.

The day after Shane got well, Dylan auditioned for his play. He got his callback, and his cast list was posted. Finally, after all the auditions were over, we all gathered together for family movie night on Friday night.

Just as we were about to start the movie, Shane threw up.

Shane’s fever hit with a vengeance and he spent the weekend holed up with a high fever. It lasted days. It was horrific. I spent the weekend washing sheets, towels, pillows and comforters, while Bill cleaned up the vomit buckets (thank God for my husband). We chased down even more sugary drinks for Shane to drink – this time, so that Shane would not be dehydrated.

His fever finally lifted on Sunday, and he started to eat again, trying to get his strength up so that he could go to school the next day.

And that’s exactly when Dylan came home from his friend’s house and said he felt sick. He’d been complaining of cold-like symptoms for two days, so I felt his forehead.

Dylan had a fever of 101.

I canceled my work, again, for Monday, since Dylan would not be in school. I will be spending yet another day washing sheets, towels, pillows and comforters.

We now have plenty of sugary drinks.

Dylan Got a Callback for the Lead.

So this week, Dylan auditioned for his school play.

He had the audition. They asked him to sing two different songs, and one of them twice. He got a callback.

Dylan got a callback for the lead.

He got a callback for the part of Willy Wonka in … Willy Wonka. He spent hours learning the song, perfecting it. It sounded beautiful, what little he shared with me, and we were all a little excited here.

We were also all a little nervous here. Willy Wonka is a huge part, and Dylan barely has time to do his schoolwork as it is. He would have to memorize all those lines, all the songs, all the places he needs to stand – where and when – on stage.

We were also nervous because of Shane, who had just gone through the same thing and didn’t get the part of his dreams.

Well, Dylan didn’t get the part of his dreams, either. After days of agony, he finally saw the cast list this morning.

Dylan got the part of Grandpa Joe.

And – best of all – he is actually excited about it. He’s got a huge part, and he sings sometimes, and he’s going to have a lot of fun playing someone who is really old.

Although they might ask him to cut his hair. I’m not sure he’s thought of that. It’s currently below his shoulders, and green.

Anyway – all is well here in the Hawkins house. Both kids got parts that will be fun to do. Both kids are looking forward to a season of learning lines, singing songs and having fun with the rest of the cast.

It’s going to be a long three months, but it will be worth it.

I’m just thanking God that the auditions are over.

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