Queen of the Distracted

Imagine life in a house with 6 kids - now imagine if 5 of those kids and their father have ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) - that is our house! Welcome to an inside view of my life and our home dominated by ADHD... THERE IS NEVER A DULL MOMENT!

Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls!

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls!"

Those were our oldest daughter Rachel's first words, from the time she was a toddler she would belt them out proudly standing on the arm of the couch. At the time we had no idea what ADHD was or that it would play such a central roll in our lives.

Since then we have learned a lot, not the least of which is how many individuals and families suffer in silence. We have experienced first hand how misunderstood and misrepresented a disorder can be.

As a family we decided to take action - to risk embarrassment and labeling to get this important message out to the world. Come join our family, share in our lives, and see ADD/ADHD as we see it...
A gift with a heavy price tag.

WELCOME to life in the ADD/ADHD House!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wake Up Call

My kids complain every time they go to the psychiatrist.  Not about the psychiatrist - they love him.  They complain because there is an eyelash on the white matte around a picture in his office.

They obsess over it.  They bring it up every time we go for a visit, which is fairly frequently.  They are baffled that he has not had that picture re-framed. He said, no one has ever brought it up but my children.

That is why it is amazing to me that I went most of the day with a hospital bracelet on with out one question. Maybe they are so used to me dealing with doctors for my health issues that it  just didn't register.

I had a health scare this week...one of those, "life flashing before your eye - considering the worst possibilities" health scares.

Everything has turned out okay.  But, I am still reeling from the experience of of wondering and considering the future of my household without me in it.

I joke about being the "executive function" of my household.  I joke about it, but one of my first concerns was - how will they function?  Who will make sure they make appointments, pay bills, get prescriptions, drive everyone everywhere -- all the day to day stuff I manage for everybody?

Truthfully, even though they don't manage those things now - they would probably figure out how to manage them. Survival instincts would kick in; not one of them really wants to go with out their medication or electricity.

In many respects my husband, Mark, is more obsessively organized than I am.  In fact, some things in the house would probably run more smoothly.   When our youngest was born I was in the hospital for a month.  Everyone laid their clothes out the night before, lunches made, and the table was ready to sit down to breakfast the night before.  I can not lay claim to ever getting all those things going at once. 

My mind raced to bigger concerns.  What about my home schooled kids? How would they adjust?  What about their struggles with anxiety and depression - clearly this wouldn't help that at all?  Who would keep them all balanced?  Who would keep them anchored and reel them back into the atmosphere when their ideas or plans were too far out in space? 

What about Hannah, the only other non-ADHD member of the family besides me?  How could I leave her...alone...in the ADHD house?  It was settled - I couldn't go anywhere.

If only it were that simple, right?  I have known more than one great woman, who was really needed by her family, friends and community, that didn't get to stay. My sister-in-law fought cancer for years - right up to the last moment she fought to stay.  I am grateful that is not a battle I need to fight right now. 

I am grateful for the wake up call.   

I have been so wrapped up in surviving day to day.  My focus has been on today's lessons, trials, needs, and emergencies.  As hard as this week was, and trust me it was really hard, I am glad that I got out of thick of the trees so I could see the forest for a moment. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

And For My Next Trick I Will Make Four Children Cry at Once

My husband says I have a hard time committing to anything.  I think it is a learned behavior.  Like a lab rat that gets zinged by pressing the lever I know that if I commit to a plan and it doesn’t work out the very gates of hell will open up.  The weeping and wailing of many voices, all belonging to me, will cry unto me unceasingly.

That may be a bit dramatic.   But those of you who have ADHD family members or who work with them know that change is very difficult.  There needs to be transition time and sometimes in life there just isn’t anyway to ease into a change.

As a result I use qualifiers all the time.  Words like; maybe, possibly, I am considering it, and we’ll see have become standards in my language.  These terms give me plausible deny-ability. Very rarely do I use language of complete commitment. 

There are only a few things that I commit to as far as plans go.  We will be going to church on Sundays (unless barfing or bleeding).  We will be attending youth activities on Wednesdays.  We will go to speech and occupational therapy.  We will keep doctors appointments and meetings with our home school supervising teacher.

The Plan

The plan was to go through our morning routine.  Start school on schedule.  Then get ready and leave for our face-to-face teacher meeting at 10:30 am.  Rachel, my 18 year old, would head to “town” with me and my three younger home school kids.  All of the above mentioned children are severely ADHD. 

All was going according to plan until 10:15 am. 

The Monkey Wrench

At 10:15am I got a text telling me that two of my three up at the high school were suffering greatly from stomach issues.  One was bent over with stomach cramps and the other was ready to barf.

The Dilemma

Do I scrap the face-to-face meeting, try to postpone it an hour, or go and leave the sickies to tough it out at school for four more hours?  The sickie texts were coming faster and faster.  The teacher could not meet at any other time. It would take me an hour to drive to the high school and back to pick up the high schoolers.

The tears were already flowing when I drove out of the driveway to the high school.  According to everyone at home, whose day and plans had been ruined, I was headed the wrong direction. 

The Fall Out

They had their individual reasons for falling apart. 

My oldest is seriously socially deprived by living in the country so far away from a mall and civilization.  Her plans were to sit in the Panera while we had our meeting, draw, and scope out hot boys, the type that do not exist in our area.

The younger ones all home school and want to get away from the house, but probably more than that they had their heart set the ice cream treat coming after the face-to-face meeting. 

They seem like simple things - nothing too pressing or earth shaking, but let me tell you the earth did shake.

I got home with the sickies and was met by a chorus of pleading, screaming, and crying.  I thought my brain was going to explode. Let me tell you there was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth; followed by begging and pleading to go with me on the errands that I still had to do.

I hate those explosions, everything goes from relatively calm - at least normal amount of calm for us - to absolute chaos and stress in a matter of seconds.  It is emotional whiplash.

After everything was close to back to normal - maybe an hour later - and I had the four as a captive audience in the van.  We had what my mother used to call a “learning experience.” 

I told them that I understood that their brains have a hard time with change, that they set themselves mentally to a plan.  I get that the disruption of that plan is like suddenly losing gravity.  They feel lost and disoriented.  But I need them to work with me on staying calm enough to work through it with me instead of railing against me.

I know from my husband Mark’s experience that these kinds of cold to hot temperament changes can be conquered.  He has worked hard to find an even warm response - even to difficult and immediate changes.

I told them that I needed them to understand that it is hard for me also.  Change isn’t necessarily hard for me if I know what I am changing too.  But the fall out from change with my ADHD family members is really hard on me.  While I try to provide transition into change for them when I can not all change can be successfully transitioned into. 

Sometimes life happens without warning.
Sometimes, despite all my practice, I am like a bad magician pulling the tablecloth out from under a beautifully set table.  Sometimes, I just end up with a bunch of broken dishes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

- . - - - - . - - - - - . . - - . - . . - - . - - - . - - . - - - . - - . - . - - . Morse Code For, “No! You Can’t Make Me!”

Mariah got caught texting at school.  Well, actually she was emailing her little brother from her phone.  None the less, she could have gotten her phone taken away, but she didn’t.  Instead the teacher that caught her ended up walking off a little dumb founded leaving Mariah to her email.

She goes to a very small charter school that offers an online curriculum.  Most of the students attend from their homes but there is a “school” site with a principal and teachers and about 20 students in a one room computer lab.

It baffled Mariah at the beginning of the year that she could bring her cell phone to school but couldn’t use it.  Being Mariah she took it straight to the principal.  He explained to her that if there was an emergency at the school - especially a violent one - that parents wanted their children to have cell phones for communication. 

This tickled Mariah a bit.  She told the principal that she could see how it would all play out.  Someone would come into their one room school guns a blazing.  Her cell phone would save them as she warned her fellow classmates by text, “Franklin, don’t look now but the shooter is right next to you.”

We all love the principal of the school.  He is a great educator and mentor to these students.  He told her in that situation she could use her cell phone but not in any other.  No technology for this technology based school unless it was an emergency.

So when Mariah got caught using her phone she was quick to respond, “It’s not what it looks like.  It’s important.  I’m emailing my little nine year old brother.” 

The teacher could see her screen.  He did a double take, “Is that Morse code?  Your nine year old brother knows Morse code?”

Mariah’s response was simple but very true, “You would be surprised at all the things my nine year old brother knows.”

Our house runs on a continuum of focus - at one end there is absolutely no ability to focus whatsoever and at the other end is extreme obsession.  In between, there are degrees of momentary focus, focus, hyper focus, and varying levels of fixation.    

For the most part, I ride the wave of whatever is swirling in the hyper focus to obsession range.  I try and roll with it if it is not destructive.  I do have my limits though, for example, I don’t care how obsessed someone is with paint ball blow dart guns I am not buying one.

Some of it is like the tide -- it rolls in for a little while and then rolls back out.  Star Wars, instruments used for spying, Lord of the Rings, various foreign languages, Red Wall, Pokeman, Ninjas, Transformers, even movies or songs.  Anything that captures the attention, tickles the brain, or in others words is stimulating to the mind.   They love to ride the wave. 

Most of the time these are momentary fixations with a subject that come, get explored and played with a bit, and then go away for awhile.  They almost always come back to be re-examined and added to.   They roll in and out or our lives. 

This is good; my poor little non-ADHD brain can only handle so many random facts at a time before I think it is going to explode.  I welcome the rotating obsessions as a break, a chance to absorb information, to process it, and brace myself for the next round.

Morse code is one of those obsessions shared between Mariah and Jaren. 

It began a few years ago when we read an absolutely fabulous book series called The Mysterious Benedict Society.  It captured our house.  It was amazing to watch our kids; then six to sixteen, sit for hours listening to the story being read aloud then beg, beg, beg us to read more. 

The characters in the story, all unique in their own abilities, use Morse code to communicate in a very perilous time.  That is where it started.   
It rolls in and rolls out. 

Later that same day at school one of the other students got annoyed at Mariah for tapping on the desk.  He told her to cut it out.  She didn’t say a word to him; she just shot him back a look and kept tapping.

- . - - - - . - - - - - . . - - . - . . - - . - - - . - - . - - - . - - . - . - - .

It means “No! You can’t make me!” in Morse code.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Changing Views: Getting Beyond the Perception of ADHD

There needs to be a change of perception about ADHD in our communities, one that I believe will only take place as knowledge and understanding are shared.  One that I believe can only take place by learning about the experience of having ADHD not just the symptoms.   

ADHD has to get beyond the annoying kid that can’t sit still, that blurts out answers, acts impulsively, and can’t focus.  How different is the perception of that child if instead of seeing a fidgety child people see a child who didn’t sleep all night.  How real will his experience become if people see not just the outer actions but realize the inner struggle. 

One of our children draws battles every chance he gets, elaborate battles that are animated by sound affects as he draws.  When he is not drawing battles he is lining up opposing armies made of whatever is with in reach to form battles.  Did I mention sound effects?

This child is about the least violent young man I have ever met so naturally it puzzled me why battles would consume so much of his time.  I brought it up with our psychiatrist once.  His answer was profound and I think worthy of repeating. 

He said that is seemed to him that this obsession with battles was an outward acknowledgment of his inner battle to concentrate.   

It makes sense.  His battle is constant.

How many individuals struggle and are seen largely for their disruptions and failings with no understanding of their battle?

ADHD is hard for people to wrap their minds around.  It is made harder by the absolute individuality of the disorder.  It comes out so differently in each individual not only because each person may have differing symptoms but also because each individual reacts to their symptoms differently.   

Take for example inattentiveness.  All of my children suffer to one degree or another from inattentiveness but it does not show itself in any two of them in the same manner.  One rolls with the inattentiveness, sometimes wandering around trying to remember what she was doing while another lays out her belongings the night before and checks them three or four times over to make sure she is not going to forget something.   

ADHD is a mixed bag.  I do not want people to think that somehow I ended up with the only ADHD family members on earth that have only cute, clever, and intelligent ADHD moments.  Through the struggle to manage their ADHD they have found ways to use their ADHD to their advantage.  They have found humor in their struggle. 

As my husband is prone to say, “ADHD is a gift with a heavy price tag.” It is what we have tried to instill in our children.  Strengthen your strengths and find ways to overcome your weaknesses. 

As I considered how much to share and how real to get I couldn’t help but feel that the power is in the real experience. The change is in the real experience.  The awareness is in the real experience.  The fellowship is in the real experience; whether that experience is hard or humorous.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Will the Real Insomniac Please Stand Up?

It started when Mark and I were first married.  I had this silly notion that we would run on a similar schedule.  In our newlywed bliss we would get up at the same time and retire at the same time.  This would have worked perfectly except my sweet new husband didn’t go to bed until two or three in the morning.  Regardless of when he fell asleep he was up at five or six in the morning.

I couldn’t keep pace.  I was more of a minimum of eight hours of sleep person myself.

It was a whole new world for me.  At the time we knew nothing of ADHD or the many orbiting conditions like insomnia.  Now, I am well versed in those conditions, especially insomnia.

Mariah followed Mark.  I had never heard of an infant that slept only 8 hours in a 24 hour period but that was Mariah.  It was insane.  Getting her to sleep became an art form.  She would sleep, in the swing, in the bathroom, under the fan, for little spurts of time.

As she got older that time shrank until when she was in junior high she was only sleeping a couple of hours at night.  Not healthy for her or anyone else in the family.  Once diagnosed with ADHD and medicated we figured some things out. 

What worked for Mariah was a small dose of stimulants in the evening.  It calmed her brain down, helped her process her thoughts.  It seemed like the opposite of what you might do to get someone to sleep, but it worked.  It changed her world.  Sleep was no longer elusive. 

Of course, by then there was another to pick up the slack.    His room was right off the living room and he would call out to make sure I was still up as long as he was awake.  Occasionally, he would blurt out some random thought or realization.

“Why do they call it leap year?” he called out one night.  “It is really only one day of one month.  Shouldn’t it be leap day or leap month?”  These were puzzling thoughts for a five year old late at night. 

Those thoughts were over run  by more troubling thoughts.  They were the kind of thoughts that grow out of too much time to think and no medication to help you control your thoughts.  He started worrying about fires and other “safety issues” as he calls them.

He would lay awake, after his roomy finally passed out asleep.  He would eventually confide that he would picture a toy in his mind and consider if it would burn or melt in a fire.  Toy after toy, it was uncontrollable self torture. 

We tried a litany of medications and other solutions.  Melatonin took the edge off for awhile.  Taking a stimulant at night didn’t work for him.  It just better focused his thoughts and increased anxiety.  It was one failed attempt after another over the last several years. 

In the mean time, he and his roomy had developed all these night time rituals.  His poor roommate, it seemed, was being tortured by hours of activity.  

Then the magic finally happened and we found what worked for our hardcore insomniac.  He takes his medicine and an hour later he is asleep on a regular basis.  He is sleeping.  He is growing and gaining weight.  Life is good. 

You would think that his roomy would be finally free from hours and hours of late night sleeplessness.  Not so.  The strangest thing happened.  Our hardcore insomniac passed out every night but his roomy didn’t.

All those nights we thought that the insomniac was keeping his roomy up.  All those nights and it turns out that the roomy is just as much of an insomniac. 

We waited some time to make sure it wasn’t just habit.  We ran through the simple solutions; those didn’t work. Then one night the little roomy came out crying, begging for the same medicine so that he could sleep too.  Insomnia is no fun alone.

The next day I made an appointment. Now all the insomniacs in the house are sleeping.   

Except me.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cow Incident

I heard a friend talking about our neighborhood once.  He said, “That’s the only place I know where people build fences to keep the cows out instead of in.”

It is the truth.  We live in a neighborhood with free range horses and cattle. We have lived there for several years now.  Up until this last year the cows seemed to leave us alone. 

Then something changed, it has been war ever since Christmas when they broke down the fence.   It was great fun for our Australian Shepard who got to chase cows all day; not so much fun for us.  That was just the beginning. 

I have often wondered what the draw was to our yard.  There are luscious yards all over the valley, ours looks like a woman with the black thumb of death gardens there.  But they kept coming back and breaking in all spring and into summer.  

 My kids have often joked that this one big black steer was the ring leader of the cows.  They even named him, Boss Cow. He always seemed like the first one in.

I may have inadvertently gotten revenge the other night.  We were headed home from an activity late at night.  It was very dark, no moon and no street lights.   By the time I saw that huge steer right in front of me there was nothing I could do about it.  I slammed on the brakes and braced myself.  From there it was screaming and crying and freaking out times eight passengers.

The boys were first out of the van.  They were checking on the situation.  I was sure that cow was underneath us because the van wouldn’t move.  I looked around, there was steam pouring from the engine, and the battery light was on.  The boys made a quick report - no cow

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since that huge old black steer’s back came up over the top of the hood of my gigantic 15 passenger van.  He was big and strong - he was gone. 

Now everyone is out of the van, the boys are running around pumped on adrenaline.  The girls are screaming and crying.  Mariah and Hannah were especially as they stared down the cow as it was hit and rolled up onto the windshield.  I am pointing out that the battery light is on while trying to call my husband and take a picture to send him. 

Some Good Samaritan neighbors had shown up to help.  As it turns out the neighbors heard the crash while enjoying the evening on their back porch and called the fire department.  They were now searching dutifully for the injured cow.  Someone has got to find it and notify the owner. 

My husband was an hour away at work so he sent our good family friends, Don and Steffani, to help.  I tell Don all about how the battery light is on.  Then I tell the Fire department and the Highway Patrol.  Finally, Don kindly points out that the battery light is on because the cow moved the battery and the rest of the engine a good foot and squished it. 

By now the adrenaline is wearing off and the pain is setting in.  The EMTs are not plagued with a boring night at the station.  Mariah seems the most injured - her neck and back are really hurting.  They are strapping her down to a c-spine board as she entertains them as only Mariah can.

Just as we have an uncharacteristically large numbers of family members with ADHD we also have five of the six with a genetic disorder that makes for very loose, bendy joints called Ehlers Danlos. 

There Mariah is on the back board and she flips her arm out backwards, like she does on a regular basis, and says, “do you think this is okay, I feel a little bit of pressure.”  The EMT was freaked out for a moment until the firemen started laughing - they had encouraged this prank - silly firemen, Mariah does not need encouragement.

We were now a sprouting row of back boards in the field by the side of the road.  Secured and taped down, just to be safe.  The neighbors are still looking dutifully for the poor injured cow.  They start to move us to the ambulances.  I can’t say what the rides in the other ambulances were like but I was in the ambulance with Mariah. 

Mark knew exactly which ambulance we were in as we arrived at the hospital because the paramedics got out of the truck laughing.  She started out by reading the triage tag they had tied to each of.  When our EMT got in and asked how we were doing Mariah was quick to point out it could be worse they could have tagged her with the black strip labeled morgue.  It was all good with Mariah as long as there was no black tag.

She pointed out that this trip was an inconvenience since she was supposed to be sitting at home with her dog, eating Greek yogurt and granola, finding out the end of the third Indiana Jones movie.  She mused that now she would never know if he finds the Holy Grail or not.  

She wondered if it was just her or if anyone else was in the mood for a taco.

She went on to recommend that the ceiling was rather boring for someone strapped to a board, only capable looking straight up.  She recommended an inspirational poster taped to the ambulance ceiling.  Maybe a cute kitten dangling from a branch with text that reminded people to, "hang in there" or a beautiful ocean view with a breaching whale.

I finally told her she had to stop because laughing hurt so badly.

As it has turned out her injuries were the most severe and she is still struggling with whiplash pain.

Mark was being brave, visiting room to room, going with each of us to x-ray.  Don was doing the same, visiting bedside to bedside checking on everyone, keeping everyone calm.   It was early morning before we were out of the hospital emergency room. Steffani and another friend, Joey, were keeping those at home calm.

The big black steer was never found.  I kind of wonder if our attentive neighbors have been enjoying some good BBQ on that back porch.  Beef it's whats for dinner. 

With some degree of sadness we said good bye to the Monster Van that had been so much a part of our lives for 7 years. That van had taken care of the mundane day to day running.  That van  had driven us to the ER for x-rays, ruptured ligaments, and more than one set of stitches. That van had taken us on adventures all over California and even all the way to Oregon for a family reunion. 

As my husband Mark put it, in the end it did its job, that van kept us safe. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Back to School - Back to Blogging!

What a summer!  I think I made a tactical error some where between the hectic end of school and the beginning of summer.  I said, “I wish it would all just stop so I could just catch my breath.”

Boy did it stop!  I do not believe I will ever beg the world to stop again.

It started with the water pump on the van deciding that it also wanted to stop, stop holding water that is.  I would put fluid in the radiator and watch it pour out the water pump.  This made life come to a screeching halt.  We could not risk driving very far and we live very far from civilization.

We got it fixed though - proving my theory about cars that they are nothing but a big expense.  We pay to buy them, to register them, to insure them, to put gas in them, and to fix them. 

We thought we were on the road again but we were quickly hit by the first wave of summer pestilence - strep throat.  When I say we I mean ALL of us except my oldest daughter Rachel and my husband Mark.

Misery is somewhere in the definition of strep throat.  I always judge it as strep when I get to the point where I would rather die than swallow.  Misery is also somewhere in the definition of cabin fever.  That’s what we suffered as we spent days stranded by the van then house bound by strep. 

Cabin fever is no fun but cabin fever with 5 ADHD kids who are just well enough to be cranky is awful.

We recovered and we were excited to go watch the girl’s band perform at an open mall show.  We were all loaded up and headed down the freeway when the van began making funny noises.  I am not a fan of automotive noises.

There we were going 65 mph, or maybe a little faster, down the freeway when suddenly we had no power steering and no power brakes.  That’s when learned the importance and function of the serpentine belt. 

A car full of ADHD minds contemplating the possible ends of no power steering or brakes is not something I would recommend unless you are into horror films.  The anxiety went through the roof.

We learned later that the new water pump was defective and the entire nose of the water pump broke off taking the serpentine belt with it. 

It’s okay though we made it to the open mall where we enjoyed the girls’ music, the 100+ degrees weather, and heat stroke.

For our next trick we all got food poisoning.  I wasn’t sure if it was the flu or food poisoning at first.  I leaned towards food poisoning because everyone started running to the bathroom at the same time. 

The clincher, for me, was when the dog started throwing up too.  I was trying to get our beloved Aussie, Sid, out the door when I saw left over fast food wrappers empty, licked clean, on the floor.  She is notorious for he sneaky snacking.  At that point I was sure it was food poisoning.

Those volcano nachos lived up to their name.

Don’t get me wrong, we also had our moments of fun. We took an absolutely wonderful and uneventful trip to Monterey.  It was a relaxing and beautiful day with no sickness or car problems.  It was exactly what I had in mind when I thought it might be nice for the world to stop for a little bit.

And now we are officially “back to school.”  My older kids started mid August and the younger ones, the ones I home school, started at the end of August. 

Just to leave the summer with a big bang I hit a big huge cow on the way home the night before school started.  Scrunched the front of the van, stopped us dead in our tracks.  Ironically, the cow has never been found.  The cow ran off; the van has never run again. The beloved “Monster Van” is being handled by the “total loss” department. 

We had the excitement of bunches of us laid out of back boards in the field on the side of the road.  Three ambulances and hours in the ER later, we confirmed that we were all okay. There were no broken bones, just bruises, whiplash, and cow induced emotional trauma.  Flashbacks of the cow rolling up the windshield.

I say bring back the chaos of the school year. I may never ask for things to just stop again, it is too dangerous!

I would not send our summer to the “total loss” department but I am very glad it is back to school and back to the blog!

PS...A special thank you to Amanda for a very inspiring email that reminded me how important this blog is to me and others ~

Saturday, June 19, 2010


As school was drawing to a close this year and life was proving more complicated we reintroduced Mariah to journal writing.  We have encouraged the kids to write in journals on and off during their lives, mostly to have a record of their experiences at different ages. Now we encourage them to write as a means of sorting out their feelings and some of life's tougher issues.

Mariah has some great entries from previous journals.  There was an entry in one of her young journals about how tortured she was to eat hot dogs without mustard -- something she had never had to do.  She was mad. It took forever to find the mustard and when it was found, in the freezer, it was rock solid.

Poor Mary, then about four years old, took the blame.  Mary had terrible speech issues and no one could understand her very well at all.  We thought she was admitting and apologizing when apparently she was trying to defend herself.

Rachel wrote all about it in her journal. She wrote all about letting Mary take the fall for it. Rachel had accidentally put the mustard in the freezer but chose not to admit it.  ADHD moment, no doubt.

Mariah has really loved journal writing this time around she carries it constantly and writes whenever she gets a chance.  Most entries are much more serious than this one.  This one she shared with us and said I could share with you as an example of her mind bouncing from one thought to another.

“I have a headache right now and I am kinda tired.  There’s a lot to do at home today, dishes, fridge, lots of laundry, bathrooms and my room.  I cannot stand the stench of dog.  It irks me to no end.  I really want to watch Red Tide, the surfer episode of the first season of the Mentalist.  I love that show. The second season finale was crazy good.  I hate hate HATE Kristina Frye (a character from The Mentalist).  She’s an evil psycho freak.  Dang my neck hurts. I want to go swimming.  I lost some weight.  I didn’t take my medicine this morning.  I have a weird taste in my mouth.  Oh, and I know Sid is in heat.  I think she might be pregnant. Her and pepper we getting it on the other day.  I was like OMgosh! I really want to brush my teeth right now.  These sunglasses make me feel like Paris Hilton, ha ha ha!  I think I am going to shower when I get home before I get started on all my dishes and stuff.  Cows are such stupid animals.  My neck hurts.  Have you ever noticed what a strange color purple is?  It’s really strange.  You wouldn’t think that red and blue would make such a weird color.  It’s weird.  Why do old ladies always have penny candies?  You know, that are so old that they are all stuck together.  Why do they even call them penny candies when they cost like 10 cents each.  I am going to sue on grounds of false advertising.  We’re here now - almost home. I’ll talk to you later…bye.”

Ahhhhh…un-medicated and they wonder how I know when they haven't taken their meds.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rachel: Chalk Dust and Tassels

Rachel would throw her sidewalk chalk in the basket on her bike, hop on, and pedal as hard as she could up our driveway.  She was about 7 years old at the time, she would push and push up the steep driveway until she was going so slow that her bike would fall over sideways. 

Then she would pick herself up, grab the chalk and draw a long line across the pavement, hop back on the bike and ride down the hill.  A few deep breathes and she would do it all over again.  Over and over, day after day until she made it all the way up the long steep driveway.

As she accepted her high school diploma, I couldn’t help picturing her at the top of that treacherous hill of a driveway, drawing the last chalk line.  Victory!

School has never been easy for Rachel. 

Trying to remember letters and sounds eluded her despite hours of practice.  It took her years to, “break the code” and read.  There may be nothing worse in this world than struggling to read and having your little sister scream out the word you’re stuck on from across the room.

Math might as well have been Greek…in fact, Greek may have been easier.  M&Ms, beans, tooth picks, we used an arsenal of subtraction tricks to which Rachel was impervious.

It was struggle after struggle, hour after hour of work.  In the meantime, she was drawing constantly at a skill level well beyond her age. 

She was constantly creating incredible stories and plays. The children would line up at recess for parts in her dramas and directions. 

She was always ready for them, “You are the king.  Your evil step mother used to make you scrub the floors of the castle when you were little and now you rule the kingdom and you have to decide whether to have her clean the floors or be kind to her.” 

There was a huge contrast, a gap between a clearly great intellect and her constant struggle in school. 

We worked so hard with her at home that she was not totally sinking at school.  Rachel fell smack dab in the crack we try to keep kids from falling through.  When I would suggest something might be wrong, her teachers would tell me she was too well behaved, too nice, and tried too hard to have ADHD.

That same gumption that kept her riding up that driveway kept her trying at school.  That fight and drive has proven beneficial in so many ways.  No doubt, it will throughout her life.

We had such a limited knowledge of ADHD at the time.  But when I would think of Rachel I would think of great friends of ours from our years in Texas whose boys have ADHD.  The similarities were striking.  Junior high was imminent;  fear pushed me to research ADHD and to the doctor.

Mark, my husband, would have me point out that he told me not to go.  He didn’t believe in ADHD at the time.  Now he takes medication himself.  I took Rachel when he was out of town on business.  Dr. Rees, our pediatrician and a great friend of Mark’s, put all the pieces of the puzzle together.  He explained ADHD, brain chemistry, behaviors, and medication.  From all the struggles and great contrasts in our lives, a clear picture came into view.

This changed Rachel’s life -- it changed our whole family.

It was immediate.  She went to school the morning she started medication.  She had never passed a math benchmark test.  She came running, jumping, screaming out of school announcing to the world, “I got a 90% on my math benchmark!”

Medication has never peddled the bike for her, but it sure got her farther up the hill.  Each time she could mark her progress, her confidence grew. 

Diagnosis of ADHD and the beginning of treatment has in no way been the end of the journey -- it was truly just the beginning.  Mark was diagnosed, then Mary and Hunter, then Mariah and finally Jaren.

Shortly after the beginning of high school I found myself in a SST (student study team) meeting.  She had not qualified for a 504 in elementary because she was not doing poorly enough.  She was not doing poorly enough because we were spending every waking hour making sure she didn’t fail.

I tell parents now - get that 504 or IEP in elementary school because after you leave elementary school it just gets harder and harder to get.  The school and I were at odds.  I thought modifications were changes in homework, testing, assignments to help Rachel succeed.  They thought that modifications were listing the teacher’s office hours. 

I went home furious from the meeting and started researching and making a list of modifications that would help Rachel.  Ultimately, I looked at my list and thought, “The modification we need most is no distractions, no other students in the classroom and we will be fine.”

She stopped peddling - her bike tipped over and she fell unable to climb the road anymore.  The anxiety, the huge campus, huge student population, the academic struggle had overwhelmed her.  The little girl who had never met a stranger was having panic attacks in crowds.

We made a radical change when we switched her to an online learning environment.  What a remarkable difference.  The Cs and Ds turned into mostly As and Bs.  She was back on the bike, chalk in the basket, and heading back up the hill.

The struggle became keeping this wonderfully social girl happy when her high school became a one room computer lab with 10 to 15 kids attending at the school site.  Most of the students in her charter school never go to the school site they attend from home and are spread over 7 counties.

Even a month before the end of the school year and graduation from high school, she was begging us to move to Sacramento so that she could attend a small charter high school there with more students. 

Rachel brags that her greatest accomplishment was walking all the way to the stand, up to get her American Legion award, and to get her diploma with out crutches and with out falling in the big black boot she has been wearing while her ruptured ankle ligaments heal. 

I watched her on the stand.  I saw a beautiful, intelligent, talented young woman; inside there’s a tough little girl, chalk in hand, ready to tackle mountains, unwilling to give up. 

I imagine there is a little chalk dust on her tassel.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gotta Laugh

These last couple weeks have been so crazy that I transitioned from regular taxi-mom to long-distance charter bus driver.  So crazy that I have developed a repetitive stress injury in my hands from gripping the steering wheel for 8 hours of driving on some week days.  I have had quite a year so far. I know I keep saying that, but I am telling you I have driven more in the last year than in my entire life. 

The most frustrating part is that blog-worthy things happen, and I have not found a way to drive and type at the same time.  Even if I could, I can’t keep a laptop charger working long enough to make any headway. 

Now that I have a little time I have uncurled my squinched-up fingers so I can finally sit down and type. 

It is weeks like these that fry my nerves.  I get tired and worn out.  We have all our normal responsibilities plus a load piled on just to make life interesting.  The result?  I end up in the shopping mall food court doing school work with Jaren while Hunter and Mary are doing state testing at another site for three to four hours. 

I think I missed my true calling in life as plate spinner in the circus. 

I am texting with my high schoolers.  They are on an eternal quest to find the perfect reason to come home early.  They are having heated debates with teachers.  They are sure that Rachel’s ruptured ankle ligaments have turned gangrenous and will surely lead to amputation.

Having already driven an hour to testing, I am dreading the hour drive home, and the obligation to take my kids to a youth activity another hour from our home in the opposite direction later in the evening.  In the meantime, I am trying to field phone calls and do third grade grammar at the mall with Jaren.

As he works, I juggle bills, worry about gas that I burn at 10 miles a gallon, fret over dinner plans and turn-around time before we leave the house again. 

I am teaching Jaren about homographs, words that are spelled the same but have different meanings.  I explain the assignment: “Pick a homograph and write two sentences illustrating the word using two different meanings.”

I go to correct Jaren’s sentence.  He picked the word soil for his homograph.

“I spread soil around the yard.”

“I think I just soiled my spandex.” 

Thank goodness for comic relief.  I really needed to laugh.

I was talking to my friend, Laura, on the phone the other day and she was telling me how funny our family is.  I couldn’t help but think later, are we really that funny?  Or is it our ability to find humor in our lives and laugh at ourselves that makes us so amusing?

Most of the time, dinner at the Aro house is open mic night at The Improv.

Ironically, while we were talking and her ADHD kids were running in and out of the room around her, she had to handle a few kid situations of her own.  Without missing a beat of conversation, she said to her youngest son, “No, you can’t have butter for a snack.  Here have a peach.” 


Life is stressful. Everyday there are demands that we stretch to try and meet.  Some of those are placed on us by society; some we place on ourselves. Everyday there is drama, there is anxiety; and in our house there is a frantic buzz of energy that comes from the abundance of ADHD.  Most of the time our family chooses to laugh.

Humor mixed with creativity has helped us to cope with the anger and frustration that easily beset us.  It has given us a positive outlet for what can quickly turn into rage, what in the past has turned into rage. 

Over time humor has become a learned response, allowing us to keep situations calm so that they can be managed without spinning out of control.  Humor diffuses situations.  Humor makes teaching moments possible and more powerful.

Humor makes living with ADHD manageable.

I have to laugh now as Hunter comes back to the computer and school from a break.  He is still wearing his helmet, Nerf vest with Nerf guns dangling from it, and gloves.  He announces boldly that he is ready to get back to schoolwork. 

“Really?” I tell him, “Because I think your mind is still outside in the game you were playing.”  I tell him to take the gear off; it is like a comedic scene from a movie as he unloads pockets.  He begs to leave the Nerf vest on . 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rachel's Bucket List Part II

      164.    Go waddling with penguins, do the really tap dance, hmmm?
166.  Wear Ozzy Osbourne glasses and go around in a purple trench coat talking loudly in a British accent all day
170.  Sit in a giant bowl of cereal and soy milk and eat it
174.  Ride a llama (Napoleon Dynamite quotes are a must)
175.  Wear glass slippers
177.  Make an igloo
179.  Go for a joy ride in a golf cart
184.  Go sledding with a team of dogs (Delilah and Lily on board with me all decked out in winter gear - her two chaweinnies)
185.  Talk to someone on one of those gigantic 1980’s cell phones
186.  Buy a neon green ninja suit
188.  Look up at the sky and scream. “Take me with you!”
190.  Sit underneath a footbridge and jump out when someone crosses, demand that they answer a riddle before they cross
192.  Hide in a suit of armor
195.  Write my own fairytale
196.  Adventure through the countryside acting out scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail
202.  Dress up like Robin Hood and run into a bank scream, “Steal from the rich and give to the poor!”  (Mark and I have discouraged her from fulfilling this one)
203.  Visit Washington DC and be very bored
205.  Play the harmonica on a dock and see if I can summon a whale
213.  Have a big movie moment, music and all
214.  Go to that ice cream shop that sells $1,000 dollar ice cream, order the cheapest thing on the menu and then laugh at everyone wasting their money
216.  Challenge Bobby Flay to a toast challenge and kick his butt
218.  Buy a taco shaped wallet
222.  Go snowboarding and get nicknamed, “the Falling Tomato”
225.  Kiss someone in the pouring rain
234.  Buy a giant slip on fin and a red wig and sing Little Mermaid songs on the beach
235.  Dress a chicken up like a rapper -- name him M. C. Nugget
238.  Learn to hack from R$%@&#
247.  Graduate from high school (next week --yay!)
250.  Acquire a Cajun accent
260.  Buy a book of crossword puzzles in a different language
271.  Play solitaire with GIGANTIC playing cards
282.  Learn the language from Avatar
288.  Go to the coast and ask the tour guide how to get to Bikini Bottom
293.  Host a polka party lollapalooza

Monday, May 24, 2010

Black Boot and Bucket Lists

Immobility and hyperactivity are not a good mix.  Rachel’s prom night injury has left her with a ruptured ligament in her ankle. Now she has a big fancy black walking boot that makes her look even more like an anime character than normal.

She is in the boot “until further notice.” Which may be a long time, she still falls at least once a day because of the crutches.  Or, like the other day, gets distracted while velcroing up the boot and ends up hurting her foot as she takes a step with it only half secured.

Immobility for Rachel has been close to a near death experience.  A great deal of her suffering, our collective suffering, is due to her immobility.  Forget Chinese water torture or bamboo up the finger nails if you want to make an overly hyperactive child suffer make her sit still.

This combined with nightmares where she has to have surgery only to discover that she is actually made of spaghetti has led Rachel to some rather deep thought.

Thus we have the creation of Rachel’s Bucket List…over 300 things to do before she dies.  This is a positive development, just before her 18th birthday in February she really thought life was over when she became an adult.  Now, she has some goals, over 300 goals.

I won’t put the whole list up here, though it is a great anti-depressant. Here are some of the more interesting ones.  Truth be told the whole list could fit under, “you might be ADHD if…” or “Box, what box? Where?”

Rachel’s Bucket List Part I -- favorites from the first three of six pages

  1. Be in two countries at once.
  2. Get a full body x-ray (MRI counts) for doing something stupid. (marked this one off)
  3. Find someone or something that makes me truly happy and never let it go.
  4. Perform in front of millions of people and have a great time.
  5. release an album (partially there)
  6. Put a pink wig on a horse and take a picture of it.
  7. Prove that happy cows don’t just come from California, happy cows come from anywhere and everywhere
  8. Be an arctic explorer with Lily and Delilah (her two chawienies)
  9. Eat every meal with chop sticks for a whole day
  10. Sit fully clothed with a loved one in an empty bath tub eating cheesecake and talk about our lives.
17. Buy rip away pants
18.  Act like a super hero for a whole day
19.  Finish at least one book and publish it
22.  Compare the difference between sparking water and regular water
24.  Become a Disney Princess, preferably animated
30. Count the tiles on the ceiling in the Hagia-Sophia
35.  Go to an exotic land and eat at McDonalds
37.  Go laser tagging wearing all white and see if I can win
41.  Become a Muppet
48.  Find out where I come from and who I am heritage wise
50.  Catch a wayward Chicken
52.  Have a serious conversation on a hamburger phone
58.  Eat California rolls in Japan
62. Live life as a musical for a whole day
67. Wear a giant fake mustache and still expect people to take me seriously
74.  Sign a bald mans head
75.  Make a turtle pie and then sit and eat it in front of a turtle
79. Watch Bananas in Pajamas with real bananas in real lil’ pajamas
85.  Sing songs from The Lion King with a ukulele to a lion at the zoo
86.  Go on a safari in someone’s backyard
88.  Ride a vespa in Britain pretending to be on an epic spy chase
96.  Ride on an elephant and sing Ellie the Elephant by Toy Dolls at the top of my lungs
100.  Never make mum and dad live in a rest home no matter how annoying they are as old people (I truly appreciate this one)
102.  Dye my left thumb green and go into a garden shop and see if anyone notices
108.  Take a bubble bath wearing a sea captains hat and playing with toy boats
118.  Create a secret passage way behind a bookcase in my house
120.  Sit in a boat in the middle of a field and talk to someone for hours and hours and say we’re stranded at sea
123.  Climb a water tower and sign my name in sharpie really small on the side
127.  Learn to be a much better cook
128.  Start my own brand of freezer foods
130.  Pretend to be in zero gravity
133.  Become best friends with a Great Dane and solve mysteries in a tricked out funky van
135.  Hug a man in a giant pencil suit
136.  Set up hundreds of toasters and make enough toast to feed a small country (Rachel is known for her excellent toast making skills)
152.  Cross the border to Canada singing The Border Patrol (their song www.blissmethod.com) counting down the miles as we go
154.  Get stranded on an island only to realize that we were close to land the whole time
161.  Walk dramatically down an alley wearing a trench coat and sunglasses (must randomly quote movies and show moves)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

All Roads Lead to the ER -- Even the Road to Prom

It was a magical day and night as the three oldest girls prepared for the prom, almost like time and trials paused to lean towards a perfect memory.  Like the fairy godmother had waved her magic wand over my three daughters as they sashayed their way to the Hanford Stake center, now a Fairy Forest Prom. They left reality behind as they crossed the arched footbridge over a sparkling river that flowed from a beautiful waterfall.

For one of my princesses, the magic wore off a little early Saturday night when she was jumping and jiving to a great 50’s song at the Prom.  Fortunately, it was the last dance when she ended up a heap of sparkly white gown and crown on the dance floor. 

Within minutes her ankle swelled
to the size of a pumpkin.

We joke about having a prominent klutz gene in my house. Some blame confetti or water on the dance floor.  The more likely culprit is a complete lack of attention to surroundings.

That klutz gene is closely related to the ADHD gene that swims so predominantly through our gene pool.  Impulsivity and inattentiveness are constantly factors in the injuries within our family.

In a March post I wrote about Hunter getting stitches just below his eyebrow and about Mariah’s mysterious ankle injury in “Life Used to be so Simple.”  Shortly before that, in “A Sticky Situation” I wrote about Mary Crazy-Gluing her tongue.

Now, it’s Rachel’s turn. Sunday was spent pursuing x-rays at the ER.  Today, and for a long time to come, we will be dealing with the pain of her ankle and all the fun that comes with torn ligaments. 

Watching her navigate with crutches makes me want to follow her around with a stack of pillows.  I am fairly sure we will have another injury before she’s through with them. In fact, just yesterday she fell stumping up the driveway.

Rachel has a long history of injury. If Rachel has a catch phrase it is, “Don’t worry, I’m okay!” hollered shortly after loud crashing noises.

Rachel actually tore the ligaments in the other ankle a couple years ago running back and forth from a TV show to her room to talk to her best friend about the show.  She caught her foot on the lever of a Lazy Boy chair.  She also got whiplash, from a flying basketball while walking through the gym, her freshman year of high school.

Back when she was eight, her ear had to be stitched back together because she pulled an old heavy TV onto her head.  If you ask her, none of these “accidents” are her fault -- all of them can be explained away as someone else’s “neglect.”

Of course, it is not just Rachel; all my ADHD kids have similar stories.  Not so surprisingly, Hannah, our non ADHD child, is the only one that has had almost no visits to the ER.  No torn ligaments for her, no stitches, no x-rays, no whiplash from a basketball. Poor Hannah.

In addition to the injuries that the kids sustain there is, of course, the injury to our finances.  Maybe that seems petty in the face of my children’s wellbeing, but it is a factor that really affects us all.  At $100 a pop for the ER or urgent care, money for follow-up doctors’ visits, not to mention the splint I will buy at Walgreens, since injured rodeo cowboys got to the Clovis hospital before us and cleaned out the supply closet of ankle braces. Costs add up quickly.  Ultimately ADD/ADHD is expensive.

 Consequently, I often say, 
“Stop that!  I do not want to go to
the Emergency Room tonight!” 

That’s where I sit for hours surrounded by all kinds of germs, hemorrhaging money.  Money I can’t afford to lose out of my tight budget.

That’s the same place I sat on Sunday, next to my pretty, pretty princess transformed into a pained teen, wondering why the Fairy Forest godmother abandoned us so close to a perfect night.

Consider This: 
ADD/ADHD is a complicated disorder with behaviors that go beyond the classroom.  One of the ways inattentiveness and impulsivity manifest themselves in daily life is through injury or accident.  A recent study compares ER visit rates of children previously diagnosed with ADHD and those not diagnosed as having ADHD.  In each case the rate of injury was higher among children previously diagnosed with ADHD, with one exception where they were the same.  (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9832578)

Many people with ADHD are attracted to danger.  Add impulsivity and inattentiveness and your sitting in the local ER.

This is one way that ADD/ADHD adds stress, emotionally and financially, to families struggling with this disorder.  In our family, though injuries have been frequent, we have been fortunate that they have been relatively minor. Many families are not as lucky.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Close the Gate, Richard!

Have you ever noticed that when you try and pull out onto a road with cross traffic that it takes forever! The cars space out evenly, so it's impossible to dart out onto the road.  Like some sort of traffic conspiracy. 

I was driving some young ladies from church one evening when we were stuck in such a spot. From the back of the car, one of the young ladies piped up, “Close the gate, Richard!”

Close the gate, Richard?  I had never heard that before? But, apparently, this special phrase is reserved just to help you merge into oncoming traffic.  Remarkably, it seems to make traffic clear.  It works!

In my house attaining relaxation is like pulling out into cross traffic.  I just can’t merge onto the highway of peace and quiet. 

Life in a house with ADD/ADHD is intense.  There is a pitch and pace, a buzz to life hard to describe; like trying to describe the taste of salt to someone who has never tasted it. 

Even if I were to list all the things happening right now, this second, in my house you would read them in sequence, but not all at once, like they are happening.  In sequence they are not very intimidating.  All at once kinda makes me wish I were ADHD, maybe then it would not be so overwhelming.

So, try to picture it, not sequentially. Simultaneously. 

Rachel is singing the Little Mermaid at the top of her lungs almost drowning out the water running while she does the dishes.

Hunter is singing and vacuuming, interrupting himself to discuss whether unzipping or pulling down pants is better, safer, and more mature.  He adds that inattentiveness makes unzipping risky. 

Rachel is now singing Beauty and the Beast.

Mary and Jaren are arguing, good naturedly, about an imaginary land called ‘Ducky Land.’ She is also trying to start a game of hide and seek in the house and exploring the possibility of ice skating in the middle of the living room carpet.

Mariah, who has the stomach flu, is trying to coordinate hair and make up for her and her sisters on Saturday for their church formal.  She wants me to engage in higher thinking and scheduling…I think I might cry.

Rachel is now singing Pocahontas.

The microwave is defrosting meat to make dinner. 

Hannah is quietly doing some chore.  I think her extreme quietness has developed as a reaction to the utter loudness and over-stimulating nature of this house.  I think it may be a deep seated desire not to add to the chaos.

Wait, she just started singing Princess and the Frog with Rachel.  Wait, we are onto Wicked.  Rachel is her own iPod Shuffle.

By the end of the day, every ounce of energy has been used up, every particle of patience, every bit of empathy, understanding, firmness, and redirection are gone.  It has been replaced by over stimulation, and I have a serious need for the world to stop for a little while so that I can catch up.

It is a definite “Calgone, take me away” moment.  And yet I am sitting on the side road waiting for an opening so that I can get myself onto the super highway of recuperation.  Just when I think I am going to make it out on the road, zoom, another car.

“I will just be a minute, I need another drink of water…I left my cup out here…I know I just went to the bathroom, but I can’t hold it.”

“Just a moment” a blur runs by, “I have to make sure the oven and stove are really off.” Hunter has a serious obsessive fear of fire.

“Mama, I have a question.”  These are serious words – "I have a question" means Mariah has a serious life-altering dilemma that will take hours to address and resolve.

From the bedroom one night years ago, Hunter mused, “why do they call it leap year?  It is only one day in one month.”  He has spent hours at night as he pondered and pondered, read and read, obsessed and obsessed while dealing with serious insomnia.

One night, not too many months ago, I made the mistake of asking what was on his mind.  My thinking was that if he expressed it he could relax and sleep.  I conked out at 4:00am – he was still talking. 

Some nights it seems they wait until I am really close and pounce out of nowhere just as I let down my guard.  Like being startled awake just as you are dozing off to sleep I am jolted back into duty.

I know I have to have time to unwind and relax before I go to sleep so that I can be ready to face the next day.  To accomplish that we have an established bed time routine, we have a process and rules, and we have that point in the evening when getting up again means losing privileges. 

But we also have ADD/ADHD, we have insomnia, we have obsessive issues, anxieties and we have six children (five of which are ADHD).  All of whom may be wondering why I am screaming, “Close the gate, Richard!” from middle of the living room.

My point:  Life as the caregiver, teacher, and especially as the parent of a child or children with ADD/ADHD life is exhausting.  Having to rise to the demands of each day and night takes a great deal of patience, energy, and strength.  Rest or restoration is hard to achieve but essential so that one is prepared for the next day and its constant challenges.  Make time, take time to carve out space for yourself

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Monster Post

I was talking to my friend Steffani on Monday – her husband, Don, usually handles our car repairs – but it was Easter weekend and there were too many obligations. 

She said to me, “Lisa, something is wrong.  I don’t think it is ever taken Don 3 hours to do your brakes, much less 3 days.”

We were talking about our family’s 15 passenger van…the “monster” van.  It was so named by our kids seven years ago when we drove it home for the first time.  It was quite overwhelming to our kids at the time; they could barely climb in it they were so small.  They were between the ages of 11 and 3 years old then.

Truth be told, it was overwhelming to me too, after all I was going to be driving it, turning it, and parking it all the time.  I was lobbying for just a simple eight passenger van, one that we could all be happily squished in. 

But, Mark has never thought small and squished.  He knew all along that we needed that monster van. 

There is some irony that at the same time I was feeling overwhelmed by this new driving experience, one I was not so sure I could manage the size of.  I was also learning about ADD/ADHD for the first time and I was certainly not sure I could manage the size and scope of everything I had to learn and handle there either.

I am convinced that the true spirit of womanhood and motherhood is that we rise to the needs in our lives.

Now my dad, when he is driving with me, has a tendency to remind me, “Lisa, don’t forget, you’re not driving a Porche.”  I handle that van, not perfectly, but with a lot more ease.

There is no doubt that the same is true in my relationship with ADD/ADHD.

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with cars.  This van has been great to us, hauled us up and down mountains, on short trips and long trips.  It has endured many pauses on the side of the road where we waited for arguments to cease.  It has been Mariah’s second closet, housing a good half of her wardrobe and shoes. 

As much as I really love that van, it is a car and they cost so much money.  It’s a payment, or its money to register it or it has to be fixed. And fixing is just what we were doing this last weekend.

Mark assured me that, even though he had not willingly worked on the cars for maybe a decade, he could do brakes.  We stopped and got the parts, rotors and new brake pads for both front wheels.  Ouch! There is that money part.

Old rotors off, new rotors on …calipers… won’t fit on the rotors.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm…Well, that wasn’t good.

All the parts were bought at the same store.  All of the parts are supposed to match up.  All the parts do not match up.

Don stopped by and lent his professional eyes to the matter – all the work was done right – it was not Mark’s fault or error.  Mark, felt much better, but the calipers still wouldn’t go on the rotors.

Enter hyper focus.  While hyper focusing everything else goes away, there is only that thing – that goal – you are working on. There is no time, there is no need for food or water, no need for sleep, no pain that can not be set aside, and there is NO sense of reason.  It might look an awful lot like obsession

You might, for instance, spend hours grinding down brake pads with your belt sander and retrying them on the caliper and rotor.  You might set up lights in the driveway to do this when it gets dark.  When it starts to rain you might make a tent out of bright blue tarps so that you can huddle on the cold ground and continue the grinding and retrying. 

When hyper focusing you might end up looking like a chimney sweep from Mary Poppins, and you might even find yourself singing the songs as you work.  You might do this for basically two days.

Hyper focus is the amazing ability to block out the rest of the world in total concentration on one thing.  It is a common ADD/ADHD trait, one that throws people for a loop – especially those that think that ADD/ADHD means that you can never focus on anything.  All the ADD/ADHD members of our house have the ability to hyper focus; only a few of them can control it and use it to their benefit. 

Don’t get me wrong, hyper focus can be a valuable tool when headed the right direction. 

It has been the drive behind my husband’s career.  He puts himself in a creative place where there is nothing else in the world.  He works for hours on end in the pursuit of that vision. His hyper focus has carried over into a constant quest for knowledge of the latest and greatest in his field.  These qualities have made him very successful at what he does and a valued employee.

It has definitely led my children to develop skills and knowledge beyond their age in the various passions they pursue.  I have watched as they, in varying degrees, could not help but hyper focus. 

I have watched as they got swept down the raging river of an idea, a song, a painting, a story, a time period in history, a game, cartwheels, bike riding, baseball and anything else that may become the focus.  I have watched as they could not stop. 

At the end of the two days of hyper focus the brake pads and calipers still didn’t fit on the rotors. 

In the mean time, I was trying to figure out why all the “right” parts wouldn’t fit together and was obsessively pursing my own path with the parts store and the dealer.

The culmination:  we have a 1 ton van with a ¾ ton front end on it.   Not so surprisingly, the ¾ ton front end requires the ¾ ton rotors which are about half as thick as the 1 ton rotors.  Half as thick, and the brake pads and calipers fit right on, in less than 3 hours.

Wouldn’t it figure that the van that drives our large and unique family all over would be just as unique as we are?