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!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

By The Way...

I have had quite a month or two - it seems like I have done nothing but run and run and RUN!  Mingled with a couple of bouts with the flu and other injuries and accidents.  WOW! It is amazing I am not rocking back and forth under a table somewhere!

In the mean time, I have had all these little things that I have wanted to address but, just haven't had time to.


I just want to let everyone know that my children are totally aware of what I say about them on this blog and their experiences that I share.  In fact, many, MANY times they are the ones to tell me that different circumstances would be great for the blog!  Some days it is constant barrage and it can get annoying.

Some things are very personal - some embarrassing but, it is important to us that people start to understand this disorder.  We want people to know and understand the struggles, the progress, the thought process.  Really, the only way to do that is to be totally honest about how it effects them and us and all those around. 

For example, when I was writing the last blog I had Mariah read it before I posted it - she reminded me about a few details and added "arrogant" to the list of insults that she threw at her English teacher.  That was a nice moment - I was so happy to add more insults to the list - NOT. 


I read an article recently about popular blogs becoming a business with sponsors and product placements.  I wanted to be clear that we have NO SPONSORS HERE!  If I say that we were at Subway or some other location, it is really just because that is where we were at.  I make no money off of the blog.

Having said that - when we get the website QueenOfTheDistracted.com up and running (hopefully soon) we will have a store on the site.  In the store will be Queen of the Distracted products and other byproducts of our over abundance of creativity which will be available for purchase.  The money we make from the website store will go to maintain the site, add features, fund the documentary and TV Pilot on ADHD that we have been planning for some time now.


We are making progress towards launching the website.  I am really excited about this!  There will be so much info on the website - much more than we can ever dream of fitting on the blog.  We will have links to helpful ADD/ADHD sites, book recommendations, message/discussion boards, videos, updates on the book, documentary and show, commentary from the kids, and more, more, MORE!

It will not all be up at once but, eventually each section will get launched.

THANK YOU to all that have joined our family journey and have shared the blog with others!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mariah - Banned from School Chat...FOREVER

When the kids were really small, especially these older kids, and we were getting our feet wet with discipline we decided to use the standing in the corner or putting your nose on the wall as a form of punishment.  It has worked really well for us over the years - so well that with these younger kids I only have to mention "the wall" and compliance is nearly immediate.  I think it is because standing on the wall is excruciatingly boring.

It had it rough moments and questionable beginnings though - Mariah gave it a real run for her money when she was about 3 years old.  Whenever she was put in the corner she would cry and yell at me, "You are following SATAN'S plan!  Heavenly Father is NOT happy with YOU!" 

Even at 3 she had a quick wit and a sharp tongue.

It was okay, you know, I realized and understood that this was a sign that I was doing something right as a parent - because I firmly believe that if your kids always like you then you are not actually parenting them.  However, being called Satan's minion got old after awhile. 

So, I sat Mariah down and explained my roll as a parent and the importance of teaching her right from wrong.  I told her that, in all actuality, I was following Heavenly Father's plan when I set standards and enforced consequences, both good and bad, for the choices she made.

This started a strange new era in our house.  The girls would be off playing when all of a sudden Mariah would walk through the room with a bit of an exasperated tone and put herself quietly in the corner with out saying a word.

I imagine that is kind of what happened the other day in school when Mariah had it out with her online English teacher; then got up fuming from her desk, walked straight into the princip's office, and plopped down to confess.

As you recall, I said that teachers either love Mariah or they hate her.  It is not just her witty approach to written assignments that rubs her teachers one way or another.  She challenges her teachers' knowledge - she wants to know that they are well versed in their field before she will give respect.  She is prone to ask LOTS of questions, some related to the course - some not.  She can get - well - annoying.

Her English teacher has driven her crazy all semester.  She has never hit a place of respect with her because this particular teacher has never answered any of Mariah's questions, on topic or not.  She simply replies, "reread the course material." to everything.  This has been a source of frustration that everyone, including the principal, has heard about for months as Mariah was trying to complete one unit in particular that was not clear in the course material.

It all blew up the other day when she returned again to school chat to get help from the teacher and again was told to reread the course material. 

I think the teachers critical error was telling Mariah that she, the teacher, was helping Mariah learn by not answering her questions and sending her back to reread the course material for the eleven billionth time. 

After that was a flurry of insults.  I know that she told her that she obviously couldn't hack it teaching in a real classroom and that is why she was an "online" teacher.  I believe the words idiot and arrogant were used and some variations of names for mules. 

Somewhere in the flurry of insults that teacher announced that she was banning Mariah from school chat...FOREVER.

The principal laughed.

Then, of course, he reminded her that she was out of line and that she had acted inappropriately. 

Mariah told him that, really, it could have been much worse - she has really learned to control her temper over the years. The school secretary nodded wholeheartedly in agreement - she knows the secret - she knows why we pulled Mariah out of traditional school.

The principal made some calls, chat was reinstated, Mariah apologized.

Now you know why I hold my breath when Mariah tells me that she has been communicating with teachers, always waiting to see if we are on the love or the hate side of the relationship.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Finished? Really?

I believe that my daughter's powerfully creative mind has allowed her to create an alternate reality where the kitchen is actually clean and her job is done. The problem is in my reality it is not done...it is not close to done.  Our realities are in deep and eternal conflict. A conflict that might find her walking into her bedroom today and discovering the greasy griddle waiting for her on her bed - hopefully, making a silent but effective POINT!

It is amazing to me that my children can tell me they are done or almost done when they are clearly not even in the ball park.  I am finished...except a couple things.  A couple things?  So, you mean you are finished except for the 10-15 grossest dishes you have left to wash, dry, and put away; except for the counters that are dirty and the sink and sweeping the floor. 

We have this "finished" debate a lot in my house.  It takes forever to get this crowd started, it takes great effort to keep them going; but, you have to part the Red Sea to get anything finished.

Can you tell I am a little frustrated?

When Mary was little and we would go for walks as a family,  she had a hard time keeping up.  Her little legs would get tired.  With out warning she would plop down on the ground little legs straight out in front of her and announce, "Mary is tired and can't go any more."  (she referred to herself in 3rd person at the time)

What she really meant is she would not go, she was not walking one more step, towards home or any other destination.  We would coax and prod and beg, all of us standing around her like a football team huddling, encouraging, but she would not move until she was good and ready to move.  Usually that meant she would not move until she was carried home. 

I use this example a lot when I am ranting about the importance of finishing. Lecturing, ranting, teaching, impressing upon, whatever you want to call it; my mom called them "learning experiences." My point to my children is you can't be like Mary on a walk when you are doing a job or chore.  You can't sit down in the middle and refuse to go any farther.  You have to continue until you finish.  Finish as in really done, not alternate reality done.

Life demands completion, adulthood and jobs, the world, demands completion.  One of my greatest fears as the parent of ADD/ADHD kids is that they will not learn this important lesson and it will come back to haunt them in their education, in the workplace, in life. 

But finishing is hard for the ADD/ADHD brain.  Even if they started with great gusto and excitement for a task sustaining that interest and energy to the end is highly unlikely, bordering on impossible.  The mental energy needed to stay on task slips away quickly, a million better things to think about and do creep in.  Before they know it they have wandered out of the kitchen and are in front of Facebook, reading, drawing, doing whatever it was that generated some excitement and the mental energy that comes with it; mental energy that the dishes can never compete with.

See, here is where the real lesson comes in for the kids and for myself.  I could do the dishes, I could wash that greasy griddle that is plaguing me...plaguing...but that would send the wrong message, teach the wrong lesson. 

In the end, they have to have the struggle, they have to make the choice to ignore the more exciting things to do, they have to choose to stay on task and figure out for themselves a way to do that until they really finish. 

Mark, my husband, has mastered this over the years.  He has developed coping mechanisms that help him get through the mundane and boring tasks of work and life. He paces himself, starting with the tasks he likes the least, the ones that are hardest to maintain his mental energy during.  He rewards himself with either a task he likes more or a timed departure from the required road.

He employs his now harnessed ability to hyper-focus to get deep into the groove of  his work and has tried to create an environment with the least number of distractions so that he can maintain his hyper-focus.

Whether they learn to use their father's system or find their own way of getting things done they can develop the skills that can be applied to so many of the boring but necessary aspects of life.  They can have to experience of fighting for control of their brain rather than letting its whims and fancies have control. They then can have the feeling of success that comes with really finishing.

NOW...I am off to put that griddle in a place where it will have the most impact; where it will really get her attention!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Out with the Old...HOPEFULLY!

It is late! Like really late or REALLY early - I should be sleeping because I have to drive people places in just a few hours BUT I can’t seem to sleep.  So here I sit…typing.

We had a fairly normal Wednesday today - no late night trips to the ER this Wednesday!  Yeah!  Just the normal amount of chaos getting ready for cub scouts, scouts, and young women’s activities. 

As fate would have it I made a last minute run to town so that Thursday would run smoothly. I knew I would be gone most of the day getting an infusion of Remicade that I get every four weeks. 

We made a Wal-Mart stop and then it was off to Subway for a quick dinner. I had a Wal-Mart plan - it included the easy food for Thursday and a new pair of tennis shoes for Hunter. 

Hunter has to be eased into these kind of transitions, not because he doesn’t like new shoes but because he never, and I mean NEVER, wants to part with anything. Even shoes that might be an argument for evolution because they seem to be sprouting legs and running off or could possibly be confiscated by the government and used as a weapon of mass destruction.

Hunter really has a terrible time letting go, it is more than just a resistance to it, Hunter has told me that he is fearful that he will not just forget but lose forever the memories associated with belongings in his life.  So every paper and toy, item of clothing and shoe, they all help him remember and are a crucial part of his memories.  I am sure that is why he wants to keep everything - it is like surrounding yourself in a 3D scrap book.

Another lovely side order from the buffet of mental health issues we call ADD/ADHD.  Another thing that is hard for most ‘normal’ minded people to understand.  It is not just a, “get over it” situation.  Where other kids may not like getting rid of old stuff He has a deep physical and emotional reaction to it, a sadness that is magnified and disproportionate. 

That is not to say that he doesn’t have to learn to cope with his fear, on the contrary, it means that he has to take extra steps, we have to take extra steps now, when he is young, to help him learn to process and cope with his feelings.  If not then they will control him more and more rather than him learning to be in control. 

Parenting is hard work, parenting a kid with special needs is harder work. 

We went to accomplish this same new shoe task a couple months ago and as we were walking into the store he started grilling me on what was to become of his worn out Transformers sneakers.  I have learned to be a little sly about my responses for obvious reasons. 

Truth be told, if I told him my true intentions - the one that involves the trash can - he would do his best to “hold it in” but he would fall apart and it would break my heart. 

Last time as we were walking into the store and Hunter threw out the loaded question and I carefully dodged it.  Hunter opened the subject, “So, we aren’t going to get rid of these shoes, are we?” 

I carefully answered, “Let’s not worry about that right now, we haven’t even found new shoes yet.” 

“Good,” he responded, “Because these shoes have been with me every step of the way.” 

There were no new shoes that day but there were this day.  A perfect pair of camouflage cloth tennis shoes, on a little shoe hanger hooked together with that wonderful elastic that keep them together in the store; sadly, to be separated forever once they enter my house. 

We saw, we tried on, we bought.  We raced back to the car with the shoes and a quick pack of sock (hope springs eternal - maybe he’ll wear them).  I gave quick short instructions; Mark is forever telling me I am too wordy for the ADHD mind.  I admit it, I am wordy.

“Take your boots off, put the socks on, and put on the new shoes.”  We were already half way to Subway, our next stop.

We hit Subway with a wave of chaos. Both boys were talking a mile a minute as I was trying to order for them, for all of us.  Hunter was in a long running commentary about the fake sandwich, his hands were all over the display case and he kept interrupting himself trying to decide if he should quickly switch drinks…again.  Red Powerade or blue Powerade?

I am telling the lady just to take to pickles and olives off the meatball sandwich (Hunter’s) and put them on the roast beef sandwich (Jaren’s).  She is looking at me for reassurance; I think she is waiting for me to tell her to make the sandwiches all over again.  “No, really” I said in my best mommy voice, “just take them off that one and put them on this one.”

Hunter starts to head back to the drink cooler for a third time when I notice that he is walking very awkwardly.  Waddling really, I look down at his feet and there is that elastic STILL holding the two shoes together.  WHAT?  WHY?  Maybe there is something to be said for wordiness.  After all, I left out, “cut and remove the elastic holding your shoes together” from the list of directions.

We take our chaos out the door and as we are racing to the van Hunter comes waddling behind us screaming, “wait for me, guys, I can’t run fast, this thing is still on my shoes.”

Later that evening I notice his pockets bulging and I ask, somewhat hesitantly, what he is carrying around.  He pulls out the Wal-Mart bag, the shoe hanger and the elastic, long since cut and removed from the shoes. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mariah Stirkes Again

When Mariah announced that her health teacher asked them to write a list of 10 responses to peer pressure to drink alcohol I knew it would be post worthy.  After all, I knew that even if Mariah started out with normal answers she would not be able to resist the open invitation to be  - well, Mariah.

1. No thanks, I don't like not having control.
2. No thanks, I have to study.
3. No thanks, I have better things to do than get drunk.
4. No thanks, alcohol smells bad.
5. No thanks, I don't really see the vanity in getting drunk, naked, and spending the next day on a bathroom floor vomiting my guts out.
6. No thanks, I still have a shred of self respect and integrity I'm gonna just keep that intact thank you.
7. No thanks, I don't enjoy associating with people of such minute intelligence and to be around such idiots when you participate in these heinous acts of idiocy would place me at the same level as you.
8. No thanks, my uncle just got drunk the other day he ended up half way to the Sierra-Nevada's wearing nothing but his stupidity on the back of a black and white spotted pony reciting the pledge of allegiance to a gold fish he bought at a Wal-Mart somewhere along the way.
9. No thanks, I think you're an idiot.
10. No thanks, you're ugly. I hope you get alcohol poisoning and die, and maybe then the world would be a better place without your idiocracy darkening the door of my life!

Her teacher gave her 100% indicating that her personal favorites were #8 and #10 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Sticky Situation

A muffled scream came rolling out from Mary’s room the other night; it sounded a lot like the Peanut’s cartoon teacher in a hysterical panic.  It is not unusual for me to not understand Mary when she gets worked up, when she is muffled, upset, and crying. 

In fact, only recently can I understand her on a regular basis.  Mary has always had co-occurring conditions weaving their way in and out of her ADHD.  I have always said that she writes, like she talks, like she reads; none of which were very intelligible. 

This has been very frustrating for a clearly intelligent child, now young woman.  Just in the last year were all these seemingly separate issues put together in one diagnosis of dyspraxia.  We are finally picking up the pace of progress with a combination of speech therapy and occupational therapy.

So, the muffled panic is getting closer, and I am trying to get to Mary to figure out what is going on.  I can make out a couple words.  I am pretty good at this from years of practice. Through all the unintelligible mumbling I am pretty sure I hear, “Crazy Glue” and “Tongue.” 

“WHAT?! Crazy Glue? Tongue? You got Crazy Glue ON your tongue?!”  The answer was YES!  Yes, she had crazy glue on her tongue and behind her two front teeth. Oh, I had a lot of unanswerable questions.  Mostly unanswerable because we were rinsing her mouth out with warm water, and I was hitting the internet for the remedies.

Mary is no stranger to impulsive decision making.  In fact, when she was about 6 years old and first on medication she told me that she liked medicine, “It gives me time to think before I do things,” she said.  That was all I needed to hear.

We are talking about the toddler that cut a perfect square out of metal mini blinds with plastic preschool scissors because we told her not to raise the blinds and she HAD to see out the window in the morning.

We are talking about the girl that as a 4 year old decorated the cream carpet 3 times with royal blue fabric paint.  The last time she had to scale counters and climb up cupboards to get to where I had stashed them a good 5-6 feet above my own head. 

We are talking about the 5 year old that rolled her hair down into a comb and when she couldn't get the comb untangled cut her hair to the scalp  straight down the center of her head.

I am very much in favor of time to think before you do.

As it turns out, she was working on our de-nesting project and found the Crazy Glue under her bed.  It was clogged with dried glue; which she thought she would chew that  off and suck it out.

When we finally got around to the “What were you thinking?” question, she blurted out, “I don’t know - I am un-medicated!”

It has been awhile since we had a Mary moment - so much time that I actually thought the other day about how long it had been.  Now, I can tell you exactly how long it has been - 10 days.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Life Used to be SO Simple

I was driving the other day and came up behind a truck with this saying plastered to the back window, “Life used to be so simple.”  WOW!  This was very profound and especially hit home this week which seemed to be the explosive culmination of several crazy weeks in which life seemed to go completely sideways. 

So here is why I have not posted in such an intolerably L O N G time.  It started with Hannah’s anemia.  It has been a while now - Hannah has lived a tortured existence of iron pills, multi-vitamins and gross iron rich food.  I can not see a difference.  She is still exhausted, weak, and in pain.  She stays home at least one day a week to try and catch up.

Enter stage right Mark who has decided that now is a great time to abandon good health and be sicker than I have seen him in nearly 19 years of marriage.  A sinus infection and Bronchitis?  Really?  Bronchitis is my game not his.  He has been saying for three weeks now, “Man it stinks to be you!”  I appreciate the empathy but I wish that he would have kept it at imagining life in my shoes rather than living life in them.  He is now on a second round of antibiotics, prednisone, and inhalers.

One week ago Mariah injured her ankle; it has been hard to take it too seriously because she did it while sitting on her bed.  Surely, you can’t do that much damage just changing positions on the bed.  Wrong, she hasn’t been able to put pressure on it for a week, she has a date with the doctor on Monday to try and figure out what is wrong.

So we start the week with three members of the team benched for injury.  We are strong, we plug on, moving forward as best we can, faced with a crazy busy week of writing tests and Blue and Gold Cub Scout Dinners.  We are plate spinning at our best juggling school, church, film, life just to mention a few.

We get to Wednesday.  It is looking like Rachel is getting a little congested but I am hopeful because Rachel, like Mark has a stellar immune system.

We are baking cakes for the Blue and Gold Cake Auction, making casseroles for the potluck, racing to the church, decorating.  I think we have arrived when we sit down to eat.  Ha Ha Ha - silly me.

As we finish dinner and are getting ready to hand out awards when there is a huge collision in the doorway.  Hunter was running to get one of the boys and the boy was running to get into the room for awards. 

You can see where this is going, but here is what I didn’t expect.  The other boy is taller than Hunter and apparently had his mouth open.  His teeth went right into Hunter leaving about an 1 ½ inch gash right below his eyebrow.  

Hunter is realizing he is bleeding and starting to freak a little.  Hunter is a little OCD about such things, often telling people, “I have safety issues.” 

The other boy is walking around clearly astounded telling people, “I have blood on my teeth, but it isn’t mine.”

I grab napkins and slap them on Hunter’s eye.  Rachel announces that we hate to eat and run but that is exactly what we are going to be doing.

I say stitches, the other parents are trying to console me, maybe a butterfly bandage.  Until one grandpa opens it a little and the adults, who are all gathered around looking intently at the wound, step back in unison and announce, “Stitches.”

Off we roll; I drop off kids at home, and take a couple of the teenagers with me, Rachel and Fernando (faithful family friend).  We are on the road for an hour long journey to the hospital emergency room.  Fernando is dedicated about keeping Hunter calm and distracted by talking about various weapons and video games the entire ride.

It does not look good when we get there and of course you can’t help but over hear the horror stories of people there for 6 to 12 hours. 

I call Mark along the way and he wants to meet us at the ER, he has been working on the film after a full work day at the news station and the doctor’s appointment that lead to the prednisone.  Problem he is dizzy sitting down and dizzier standing up.  Not looking like driving is a good idea.

Hunter is sad, Mark is sad….I am SAD but life keeps going and I have to also.  Wait, wait, wait, stitch, stitch, stitch, and we are out of there.  I am thinking this going to be okay.  We get a snack and hit the freeway when Rachel announces she has a bloody nose.

Rachel gets bloody noses pretty frequently so I am not too alarmed…at first.  This bloody nose just goes crazy, the craziest thing I have ever seen.  Blood is pouring out her nose and she is gagging on it going down her throat.  I am trying to find every absorbable material in the car - I am running out.

I am thinking I am headed back to the ER.

But first I have to get some more paper towels or something, so I get off the freeway and think mini-mart.  There are NONE open!  I finally find one BUT they don’t sell paper towels or any towel like item!  After my frantic description the attendant hands me a whole package of there bathroom paper towels and a plastic bag of ice.  Thankfully the bloody nose stops.  We go home.

Wednesday transcended into Thursday - pharmacies, flat tires, more sickness and so it goes, right?

Friday, as I drove Mary to speech therapy in one town and occupational therapy in another town calling home intermittently to check on ankles, noses, and eyebrows I saw that truck, the truck of truth.

Life used to be so simple!