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, 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?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Blissful Night

I was having a great conversation with my sister-in-law a few months ago.  As we were talking I could not help but think about how great she always looks.  She is an artist to the core – trained in fashion and interior design – and it shows in her ‘look.’  Like her house, it is totally her own and truly beautiful. 

As I was leaving I thought that anyone who met her and found out what she does would totally connect the two.  Her look is that of a classy artist.

My sister is the same – it is not a stretch to see that she is an English teacher and creative writer.  Not the stuffy stereotypical kind but the kind that allow buckets of fake blood to be poured over a student in a class reproduction of Macbeth.

I have decided that I look like the mother of 6 kids – 5 of which have ADD/ADHD.

Not that I don’t try to look a little put together, I do.  But, just like my sister-in-law and sister’s images are reflections of their lives I am pretty sure that I am a reflection of mine.


I look like a million things take priority over my ‘look’;  maybe a few emotional breakdowns, a string of arguments and misunderstandings, “focus” uttered a million times, a few thousand, “reel it back ins,” and a constant race to keep up with the creativity and talent in the house.

That is why Saturday evening, a week ago, was a great night for me.  It was a parental payday for sure.

My oldest two daughters have been working to form a band for several years now.  It began long ago when Mariah started flute lessons at seven years old (as a stress reliever) and Rachel followed her with voice lesson.  This was long before we knew or understood ADD/ADHD.  As they progressed, got better, and older - their musical tastes expanded.  I suppose this end was a logical progression. 

Mariah has found ease and a natural way to communicate through writing songs (both lyrics and music). Rachel brings the songs to life on stage.

The Bliss Method left to Right: 
Ethan Harlan (drums/Percussion), Rachel Aro (Lead Singer/Lyrics), Mariah Aro (Piano, Guitar, Synth/Music & Lyrics), Cameron White (Lead Guitar) 

The girls are great but they have needed other band members to round out their sound. They have been searching and searching for the right people to fit in and keep up with them.  I assure you that keeping up with these two not an easy task.

Along comes a fantastic drummer and a fabulous guitarist and now they are going places. 

I am sure it is not a coincidence that all four band members have ADD/ADHD.  Have we talked about the beauty of hyper focus and what a talent can be created when there is nothing else in the world?

The Bliss Method played their first gig on that Saturday evening. I sat back and watched them, watched the crowd as people identified with the messages, danced along, and complimented their talents.  I felt pretty good about my role as the semi-put-together, frazzled mom.

...After all, it is what I do!