The Lovely Bones

It’s been almost a week, and I’ve processed through a terrifying event enough to be able to write about it.

Last Monday, during Spring Break, I took my 7 and 5 year old to a park with a playground. A couple of minutes after we arrived, my 5 year old, Shane, said he had to use the restroom. Since I was by myself, I told him to go to the building just north of the playground. My 7 year old, Michael, continued to play, so I stationed myself in between the restroom so I’d be able to see them both.

After a minute, a woman in her mid-twenties walked by and I recognized her as a former student. We talked for a couple of minutes and I realized I hadn’t seen Shane come out of the restroom. I ended the conversation and went to the restroom to look for him. At this point, about 5 minutes had passed.

Ok, he must be on the playground, I thought. I went over and looked. There are two large playground areas. I scanned both. No Shane.

It was at this point I started to feel strange- time started to slow down as I took in the whole area. My legs started to shake as I hurried back to the restroom. I looked on the other side of the restroom, thinking about the pond on that side and how a week ago we went over there. Maybe he wanted to go there? No Shane.

Now my breath was coming in short. I went back over to the playground again. This time, Michael came when I shouted his brother’s name. Michael walked slowly to me, no smile on his face, no sign of playing.

“Michael, have you seen Shane?”

He slowly shook his head no.

Can’t breathe

Slow motion

Clock in my head says it’s been 7 minutes.


Terrible thoughts.

He’s gone.

Someone has him.

He’s gone.


I get my phone out, realize my hands are shaking, and dial 911.

“My son is 5 and I can’t find him. It’s been 7 minutes.”

“Ma’am, what was he wearing?”

Blank. Total blank.

(Thomas the Train shirt. He picked it out that morning. I took it off the hanger because he couldn’t reach. He recognized it as the shirt his brother used to wear because he had a smaller, matching one he outgrew. We talked about how he’s growing. I know the shirt he was wearing.)

“I have to look at a picture I just took. Thomas the Train. A gray Thomas the Train shirt.”


Tick, tick

We’re at 10 minutes

I tell myself the more time that goes by,

The less chance I will ever see him again.

Calm down. This isn’t Law and Order SVU.


“Ma’am, the officer is there now, do you see her?”


Can’t breathe, run over to her.

Pass a lady in the path:

“Have you see a little boy? He’s 5. Wearing a Thomas the Train shirt.”

Blank stare.


I can feel the panic setting in.


Officer:           Ma’am, where did you last see him?

Where would he go?

Where does he normally go when you come here?

What pants was he wearing?

Do you have a pic?

Does he know how to swim?


Me:                  mutters responses


Officer:           Stay here with your son [Michael is a statue, taking it all in.] Ma’am, don’t move. Ma’am, stop following me. Stay here in one place. We are going to find your son.


Tears start. Ok.

3 more officers

Tick, tick.

13 minutes? 14 minutes?


Michael, come here and pray with me.

Terrible, terrible thoughts.

God, please help us find Shane. Please bring him to me. Keep him safe and sound. Please God. I’m wrong and I’ve messed up about so many things. Please. PLEASE. 

Michael: Silent. Staring.


Oh my God, he’s gone.

They can’t find him.

A new future starts to form:

March 11, 2019- The day Shane disappeared.

No more seeing him and touching him.

No more hearing his laughter.

What about Michael?

My husband. Where do I begin?


15 minutes


Look to my right. It’s the lady from the path. And running ahead of her is Shane. Running to me. His face is terrified and I realize he’s just mirroring my expression.

The new future disappears.




Embarrassment with police: he was in the playground after all; thanking them for helping, refusing to apologize because I needed them and I would have called 911 again.

New family rules:

No public bathroom alone

Who are strangers? Listing people and asking both kids.

Check in with mom and dad in future

It was a couple of hours before I returned to my body, or so it felt. I spent the night and next day checking to see how Michael felt, how this event will shape him and who he is; how this event will shape Shane and who he is.

I read the book The Lovely Bones awhile back and remember the point I realized the title wasn’t about the bones of a murdered character; it was about how the events in your life (good, bad, neutral) shape you and the directions and paths you grow from those experiences. This is a Lovely Bones moment in my life.lovely bones


Long Term

We were so excited to take our two boys to see Santa this year. At 7 and 4, they aren’t scared of him and they know how to look at a camera and smile- what could go wrong?

Our plan was to go to church, get lunch, and go to the mall. As we were getting ready, the older one’s behavior was slowly going from bad to worse. He wouldn’t get dressed, he wouldn’t eat breakfast, he was poking and messing with his brother, and on and on. It wasn’t good.

We gave him warnings and a time out and let him cool down. He came back down with the same behavior. Even though I KNEW better, I kept telling him “This is your last warning.” Finally, my strong, quiet husband looked at me and said “Diana, enough.” And it just confirmed what I already knew- Michael had too many chances and now he needed consequences.

The problem was I wanted a really cute Santa picture with both of my boys! My husband told me that letting Michael go would solve a short-term problem but create a long-term problem in the future. He was right.

I remembered something I recently saw: “Parents who raise their children spoil their grandchildren; parents who spoil their children raise their grandchildren.”

So even though it pains me, here’s the end result:

And that’s the hard part, right? I don’t know if we made the right decision- and we won’t know.

I think of the connections to my job. My current role primarily involves discipline: investigate, research, question, judge, and deliver with the ultimate hope of behavioral change. Every decision I make, I think of my own children and that balance of firm and loving I want with them. What’s the natural consequence and how can I let that work?

At the end of the day, it comes down to my judgement and what I feel good with. I’m lucky to have a great husband to balance me and bring my sense back when I get clouded with the short-term instead of focusing on the long-term.

Let Your Dim Light Shine

One of the best albums of all time is also hugely underrated: I’m obviously talking about Soul Asylum’s 1995 album Let Your Dim Light Shine. I first discovered this as a 13-year-old when I subscribed to Columbia House. You remember that, right? You paid 1 cent and got 12 “free” CDs (or something like that) and all you had to do was “decline” the offers sent to you each month. My parents helped me with this and obviously after I had lost enough of my babysitting money to this scheme, they also helped me end it.

Let Your Dim Light Shine was one of those albums of the month. I remember listening to it while my brother and I played Super Mario Brothers and Tetris and Ducktales on the original Nintendo.

The magic of the album is that years later, not only can I can sing every word of every song, but I can relate to every song. And the beauty is that the album has a song for every occasion. Upset about the day? “Caged Rat” knows how you feel. Stuck in a weird place of your childhood and adulthood? “Hopes Up” puts it into words. The last two tracks “Nothing to Write Home About” and “I Did My Best” convey emotions that I can’t even put into words.

Of course, there’s the ironic “String of Pearls” that unravels a story with a twist and the hugely popular “Runaway Train.”

I can’t quite put into words how much I love this album because of how I connect with every single track. I can’t quite describe how this album has been something I’ve leaned on at various points in my life. I think of the artists who created it- they’re out there, somewhere, completely oblivious to how their work lives on in others.

Let Your Dim Light Shine


On June 6th, it will be a year since my husband’s grandfather passed away. Sam Sarao was 92 and I have missed him and thought of him every day this year.

Sam Sarao became my grandfather in every way. He believed in me and asked me (every single time he saw me) how much longer I had to finish my doctorate. No matter how I responded he said, “Well, that’s not very long!” He asked me how work was, what I was doing, what my hours were, when I got vacation, what I was going to do next…it was a conversational cycle I could predict.

I remember when my husband and I told his grandparents I was pregnant. To truly appreciate Sam, you have to realize he’s the one driving the conversation and you’re just along for the ride. He was talking about how he ate some donut holes that morning, knowing we would all tell him he shouldn’t be eating those (as his eyes darted to his wife to see her exasperation and his lips twitched into a smile). My husband said, “You know, you’ve got to take care of yourself if you want to meet your great-grandson in 6 months.” Mawmaw exclaimed “Oh my goodness!” while Pawpaw continued his story about the donut shop. She interrupted him to ask if he heard that and only then did he catch on.

At the hospital, we put a 6-hour old Michael in his arms and told him to meet his great-grandson, Michael Sam Sarao. He continued with his story until someone interrupted and asked him if he heard the middle name. Once he realized it, his eyes flew to mine and I nodded and smiled.

The first time I truly was at a loss as a parent was explaining to my sons that Pawpaw had passed away. I had no idea how to do it and still don’t know if I did it right. Every so often one of them will blurt out “Pawpaw is in heaven with Jesus” or “I miss Pawpaw” and then my throat tightens and it’s hard to swallow.

Lately, my sons have become really interested in their names. They want to hear the story of their first name, middle name, and nicknames. It hurts to talk about Michael’s middle name, but the more time that passes, the more I realize that story, which leads to another and another and another, is how we honor and remember him. His name is how we remember.

The pain of losing him is still here and I suspect it always will be. I miss his stories, his laughter, his hugs, the way he loved his family. I miss the stories he told us over and over again. I miss the imperfect man who was the center of his family.


DuFour & Proficiency Scales

One anchor for planning  is framing PLCs around DuFour’s Four Guiding Questions:


These questions help instructors think about initial instruction, assessment, extension, and remediation.

Recently I was working on a presentation with a colleague that centers on the components of initial instruction. The text we used as our basis is from the October 2016 issue of ASCD’s Educational Leadership.

We have campuses at various stages of using proficiency scales and I wanted to create a visual that showed the alignment of proficiency scales and DuFour’s Guiding Questions. I wanted to validate their hard work.

Take a look at the proficiency scale below, which includes additional rows for Instructional Activities and Assessments (adapted from this book on page 73).


For example, you can see that at the “proficient” level there’s a learning goal/objective, instructional activities and assignments, and assessment tasks.

But how does this align with DuFour’s Guiding Questions? Take a look below:


Returning to the DuFour’s Guiding Questions, let’s see where those are on a proficiency scale that includes assessment tasks:

  • What do we expect students to learn? –> that’s the learning goal or objectives on the proficiency scale
  • How will we know they are learning? –> that’s the assessment
  • How will we respond when they don’t learn? –> We will scaffold instruction. Where to start? With the lower levels of the proficiency scale: “novice” and “emerging.”
  • How will we respond when they already know it? –> We will look to the “exemplary” section of the proficiency scale.

Proficiency scales help PLCs answer those questions. They provide a more concrete example of expectations that is focused on objectives. This creates an alignment that is really beautiful, and hopefully, clear expectations that are also shared with students and parents.



99 and Mason


I can’t be the only one who notices
the split second
when driving on the feeder between 99 and Mason-
the split second
where two billboards overlap-
the split second
where one billboard’s message begins and is finished by the message on another.

The billboard on the right is a permanent advertisement for a
“Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined” restaurant:
The two eyes peer out of the “O”s.

The other board-
the one on the left,
is ever-changing:
Advertisements come and go.

Yet there’s one split second where
Lost: Chick Fil A’s message to “Get Grilled _____.”
(the last half of the message becomes the restaurant’s name)
Lost: 93.1’s urge to “Listen to Latin _____.”
And my favorite:
Lost: A reminder that “God Loves _____.”

I can’t be the only one who notices.

I chuckle as I drive past,
hoping I’m not the only one.
I don’t want to be the only one.


Wide Open Spaces

We all have those songs that transport us to a different time in our lives. One of mine is the Dixie Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces.” When I hear this song, I’m transported back to my 22 year-old self, driving in my red Oldsmobile Alero from Willoughby to Richmond.

You see, I never set out to live in Texas- it just kind of happened. During my senior year in college, I had the opportunity to complete my student teaching requirements in a couple of different places. I was an English Education and Spanish Education major, so I had to spend 6 weeks in an ELA classroom and 6 weeks in a Spanish classroom. Since I had recently come back from studying abroad in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, I knew that my college had opportunities for student teaching outside of Bowling Green, Ohio. My options were Montreal, Canada (too cold, too French), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (too fun, too Portuguese) or Lamar ISD (which I had never heard of).

I packed my clothes in space-saver vacuumed bags and set out. As my mom and I drove me to my new place in the Pecan Grove Apartments in Richmond, I played the Dixie Chicks song that was telling my story:


This was exactly what I was doing- leaving home, finding a life of my own. I didn’t think about it at the time because it was beyond me- but now, as a mother, I wonder what that drive must have been like for my mom. She was traveling with her daughter to some unknown place 1200 miles away from the closest person. I’m thinking of all the conflicting feelings she must have had- loneliness at seeing her daughter leave, being nervous not knowing what’s in store, some sense of happiness in knowing she had raised a completely independent child ready to go out into the world.

When recently listening to the song, I thought back to how much my life has changed in a decade. I finished my student teaching in May, worked as a summer school teacher in Lamar ISD and was offered a job to teach English and Spanish in Katy ISD, a district I knew nothing about. In August, I started my first teaching job, in early October I bought a house entirely on my own and in late October I met a guy named James.

I go back to the refrain of the song:


I think of how the center of my world isn’t Willoughby, Ohio anymore. The center is Katy, Texas. I’ve had a lot of room to grow, make big mistakes, meet new people and form lifelong relationships. The only line I disagree with is “She knows the high stakes” because I didn’t. I was too young and naïve to think I wouldn’t succeed. I took a breath, stepped off the ledge and landed.