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, October 1, 2011

I am Aware: It is What it is

As soon as Rachel was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD I made an appointment for Mary. There was no doubt in my mind that if Rachel had it Mary did too.  They were too similar in mind set and behaviors.  Sure enough, our suspicions were confirmed and Mary started on medication in the first grade.

She was much more difficult to medicate properly than Rachel.   I could tell the difference when she was medicated but I was pretty sure the rest of the world couldn’t, especially the school.  For a while she ended up on both a stimulant, Concerta, and a non-stimulant, Straterra.  

As she got older it became clear that there was something else going on in addition to ADD/ADHD.  Her writing looked like a word scramble with mixed up letters. She changed words and dropped parts of sentences when she read.  And it was nearly impossible to understand what she was saying when she talked.   We used to say that she read like she wrote like she talked.  In every instance, everything was jumbled, missing parts of words, and there were letters and sounds in all the wrong places.

After two years of pushing the school for additional educational testing to explore problems other than ADHD we finally sat down to discuss the results.  I’d never gotten to this stage in the process before.  Rachel needed a 504 but they wouldn’t give her one because she was not failing.  She wasn’t failing because of the truly heroic efforts that we were putting in at home.  I didn’t understand enough about educational rights at the time to be a really effective advocate.  

The conversation that I was about to have with the school psychologist about Mary defied all logic and reason.  She, of course, acknowledged that there was more going on than just ADHD.  She told me that Mary had an auditory phonemic processing disorder.  I said, “You mean like dyslexia?”  Her response surprised me.  She said, “I can’t say that she has dyslexia.”   

We went back and forth a bit the end result was that she was not allowed to diagnose dyslexia or use that term by the standards of the state.  Yes, that was what she had but she could not put it in those terms.  My end statement went something like this, “So, you can say that she has a malignant tumor but you can’t call it cancer.”  Her response, “Yes.”

Ridiculous, it is what it is.

But it taught me a valuable lesson.  I became aware that, regardless of what the disorder or illness is, it is there whether we acknowledge it or not.  We can try and paint it with a different brush or hide it and excuse it away or ignore it.  It does not change the fact that it is there.  

Most importantly, if we do not acknowledge it for what it is then we run the very real risk of not getting the proper help for the problem.  As it would turn out, Mary has a pretty pervasive motor processing disorder called dyspraxia.  It was through more testing that we really got a plan together that recognized that and addressed it through Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy.   The real progress came only after we knew what we were dealing with.  

That was only several ago, in that time she went from barely reading to reading 31 novels in one year.  She still reads like she writes like she talks but man she reads, writes, and talks leaps and bounds better. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

I am Aware: Transistion is Traumatic

There was a tent in my living room Friday Night.  Not a makeshift fort with blankets thrown over a bunch of kitchen chairs.  A real honest to goodness four man tent set up in my living room. 

It didn’t start out there it started out in the backyard.  It was panning out to be a most perfect evening.  The two youngest boys have been planning to camp in the back yard since we moved into this house.  They were ecstatic that it was finally happening.  Two of their older sisters were too.  With the younger boys out of the house they could stay up late and watch a movie that is a little too scary for those younger boys.  It was a win, win situation. 

Until there was a lightning storm outside that just wouldn’t stop.  That changed everything and change is not a friend to the ADD/ADHD brain.  It started with our youngest sitting quietly on the couch crying.  He was really disappointed.  He had waited and waited and set his mind to this happening.  We came up with a plan to move the tent indoors and they could camp out there. 

One sister was fine with it; she doesn’t have ADD/ADHD so she could see beyond the moment of panic that comes with change.  She was in, she said she would sleep on the couch and they could watch movies.  It was working out.  The change was not working for other sister.  Those little brothers inside meant they were not watching the movie she wanted to watch.  

In my experience change is consistently hard for the ADD/ADHD brain to handle.  It doesn’t matter whether it is good or bad change.  It doesn’t matter if it is a real or perceived plan.  It doesn’t matter how many wonderful substitutes are offered. It doesn’t even matter how old you are or how accustomed you have become to change.  Not if, but when change comes, it is terribly hard for their brains to process that change and transition to a new plan.  

That moment when you have to accept the change and then transition is rarely pretty.  I think this is why, like a mouse zapped every time it touches cheese, I am reluctant to commit to a plan until I am pretty darn sure it is going to work out.  I don’t think I gave my blessing for the campout until late afternoon; there were only a couple clouds in the sky then.  Certainly, nothing that seemed threatening.  Nothing that foreshadowed the evening’s lightning storm both inside and outside the house.  

Our approaches to handling the two meltdowns were very different.  With our youngest we are working on acknowledging that change is a very real part of life and when it comes you can find a suitable alternative to your plans.  Sure the first plan was going to be fun but the alternative can be equally as fun, maybe even more fun, if you embrace it and let it be.  

With our daughter we wanted to add a step on the learning curve.  Life is change and change is a constant in life.  There are suitable alternatives, maybe even better ones, and when we embrace them we can enjoy them.  Those are the same lessons, the added lesson for her is, and as you get older you have to get better at controlling your outward responses to change.  She has a tendency toward the dramatic.  You cannot have the public meltdown that you can when you are younger.  You have to find ways of controlling the outward disappointment and anger or look like a gigantic two year old. 
In the end they were happy as clams in the living room, in a tent, eating popcorn, and watching Ponyo.   In fact, I believe more than one person indicated maybe it was better than the original plan.  

I am aware that change is always going to be a sore spot with my ADHDers, it is just how their brains are wired and that is not changing.  I am also aware that while they cannot change that hard wiring in their brain they can learn coping mechanisms to help them process change and transitions when they come in a healthy way.  

Heaven knows change comes often enough to have lots of opportunities for practice. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

I am Aware: It is My Emergency

For years I have been threatening to burn the plaque that hangs in our home that says, "Lack of planning on your part, does not constitute an emergency on mine."  Maybe in a normal house that would work but I have not found it to be true at all. Sometimes I think the sign is laughing at me.

Sure, I get the fact that sometimes we have to let our children suffer the consequences of their lack of planning but let's face it, ADD/ADHD is different.  IF I did that all the time they would flunk out of school, loose every friendship, never go on outings because they didn't turn in the permission slip.  I could go on forever, as I am sure you could too.  So, it is what it is.  I do a lot of crisis intervention.

A lot of times it is not a lack of planning that is the problem, it is all the other aspects of how the ADHD brain works that get in the way.  Life is like an obstacle course riddled with forgetfulness, distraction, diversion, fixation, impulsiveness all pulling the brain away from the plan.  At times even the best coping mechanisms cannot compete with executive function malfunction.

Case in point.  My daughter Mary just left the comfortable security of home school and entered public high school.  It has been a great experience for the most part.  She is engaged in school and the school is engaged in helping her succeed.  I could not ask for more.  Most of the time she finishes all her homework in classes she has during her day to help her.  This is perfect!  If you have ever tried to do homework with a child who is unmedicated and exhausted from the mental energy exertion it takes to focus in school you know exactly what I mean.

But, there are times she does have homework that she needs to do at home and because of her ADD/ADHD and the fact that it is not the norm for her - her risk of forgetting it is HUGE. She doesn't seem to remember she has homework until I ask her to do a chore, that seems to jog her memory every time. Suddenly it comes rushing back.  Panic, tears, excuses...frustration for both of us.  Of course, by this time she has usually been home for a while, gotten a snack, watched a favorite show or two to relax.  Plenty of time has passed in which she could have done homework, if she remembered.

Just the other night I asked her to cut up vegetables to go with dinner.  The panic, the melt down, the tears.  How awful am I?  She assures me if she doesn't do the homework right then she will forget again and then her grades will plummet, she is so proud of her A's and B's.  What about college, she pleads with me?  If her grades plummet then she won't get into a decent college, the college of her current dreams, MIT.  No amount of "we won't forget the homework" plans worked to calm her down.  The more I said cut veggies the more hysterical she became.

Finally I said, "go - do the homework!"  Okay, I may have spoken loudly.  She kept going and going, weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  I looked at her and said, "Mary, you won.  Stop.  Take your victory and go do your homework."  And what exactly did she win?  She won a new after school routine.  No more favorite shows to relax.  Not until after dinner, which is after chores and a double check on homework.  So far so good.

Some people might say I gave into manipulation.  That the melt down was an act to get out of the chore.  I don't see it that way.  People who don't contend with disorders that effect the executive functions of the brain do not know the pressure and panic of people who do feel.  Their desire is to remember, they don't want to forget and constantly appear negligent, defiant, or incompetent to the world.  There is a painful self consciousness about their lack of control over what sticks in their brains and what doesn't.  I am sure they, at times, feel betrayed by their own mind.

While the person with ADD/ADHD may forget things easily they have a hard time letting and forgetting  failures.  When that moment comes, or they feel like it is coming, every past failure is clear and present.  I know her panic and fear are real.  So, I try to address the fear and emotion.  Then the issue.  Then a long term solution.

Yep, their poor planning is my emergency.  It is my teaching moment.  It is an opportunity.  But still, my emergency.

I am Aware: Parents are Experts

I was talking to a teacher, a new teacher to us and really a relatively new teacher altogether.  She was frustrating the heck out of me.  I have to admit, I was at whits end trying to communicate with her how ADHD  effected the way one of my children approached school.

I finally stopped the conversation dead in its tracks.  Do any of your children have ADHD?  Does anyone you know have ADHD?  Are you familiar with it at all?  Probably, not one of my finer moments of diplomatic relations with teachers, but, definitely nicer than what I almost said.  I was frustrated and feeling a little snarky. 

No, she had no personal experience with ADHD but she assured me there were experts in the field that could help me.  HA!  For the first time I stood up and said what others, including our family psychiatrist and other professionals have been telling me for years.  I firmly stated, "I have 6 kids and a husband with severe ADHD. I AM an expert in the field, I live it everyday.  Let me tell you how their brains work..."  the conversation went on from there.

September is national ADD/ADHD Awareness month.  To honor that I thought I would share some of the things that ADHD has made me uniquely aware of.  To start, I have come to realize that I am an expert in the field of ADD/ADHD and the many co-occurring conditions that float freely around our house.  I am an expert because I have spent over 20 years in the trenches with it.  It doesn't mean that I have all those extra letters after my name or that I have a fancy degree hanging on my wall.  It most certainly doesn't mean that I know everything.  But to one degree or another all parents with children are experts. We are experts in our children's personalities, their struggles, and their strengths.

I have spent a great deal of time becoming educated on ADD/ADHD and the other conditions they cope with everyday but my real expertise comes from just day to day living, trying to understand the how their minds work, how they take in information and stimuli, how they process it, and how it comes back out in their behavior.

I believe that most parents, even parents that have just been handed a diagnosis and haven't even begun to research or learn about it, even those who don't understand the scientific ins and outs, are experts.  They are experts on how their child will react given any set of circumstances and how to influence that outcome of their behavior for the better.  They are experts in their child's strengths and weaknesses. 

Sometimes it is easy to be intimidated when you walk into a Student Study Team, IEP, 504 meeting or even when we take our kids to doctors or other professionals for help.  We look to them as the experts.  We forget that we, as parents and advocates for our children, stand on equal ground with the experts.  We bring to the table a unique perspective, the day to day details, the clues that will help unravel the puzzle of our child's brain. 

It is the combination of our expertise and their knowledge that will hopefully benefit our child most in the long run.  I have become aware of the importance of being an expert in my child's life.  The importance of embracing that roll and proactively becoming the best expert I can be in my field.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Out of the Nest

We have embarked in a whole new phase of life in our house.  It has taken awhile for me to get my bearings as I have been stretched over this new schedule.  We have two in college.  Three in high school, at two different schools, and two still doing home school, but with two different supervising teachers. One still in an elementary and one in junior high.

For the past four years we have had everyone under the shelter of various online programs.  There was a safety in being able to more readily control the environment, to accommodate with ease.  In addition, the home school we used for our K - 8th graders was wonderful about IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings and providing services.

That was a stark contrast to the school district they had attended before where we had to fight to get testing and services.  Where, to make the simplest thing happen, we had to threaten to call the OCR (Office of Civil Rights) on the school district.  In a way, it felt like we have been in the security of the nest for these four years that we have been doing home school exclusively.  In the meantime, everyone is growing up and their skills are growing and their needs are changing.

Eventually, it's time to leave the nest.

This school year we took our first big test flight.  I suppose the mother bird in me has been busy flitting around trying to make sure no one met the pavement below too hard.

It started with getting my two oldest settled in college.  I have been at this long enough now that I know some of the pot holes and how to avoid them.   So, when we got them all registered I handed my daughter the phone and said, "now, you need to call and make an appointment with disabled student center to get on the record from the start that you have ADD/ADHD and need accommodations."

Didn't necessarily make me the most popular mama bird in the tree but that's okay.  It has created a safety net for them that was worth the initial balking.  They got the accommodations they need in place, if they need them they are there, and they learned they have some extra perks.  For example, they get to go in and meet with their DSPS counselor and registered before all of the rest of the students on campus so they can get the right classes and professors.

Within the a couple of days of getting the oldest two settled it was time to get Fernie into an alternative education program close to our new home.  He was doing online school with our older kids through the school district's on-line charter HS.  It worked for him, he came to our family severely short on credits to graduate and needed a program that would allow him to make those credits up quickly.  He worked very hard last year in a system that was really not designed for his optimum learning style.  He came very far but not far enough to re-enter public school and graduate on time.  

I have a half written post that will dive more into his experience in Alternative Education.  It has been an interesting experience to say the least.

Once he was off and flying, testing his wings, it was time to enroll Hannah and Mary in regular high school.  This was a huge step for me.  Probably the hardest for me to let walk to the edge of the nest.  Hannah because she is most like me, but very shy.  Mary is the child in our family that has managed to collect the most disorders and the one we have had to fight the hardest with the schools for services.

I have learned a great deal as Mary's parent.  I learned how to get fabric paint out of cream colored carpet. I learned that while preschool scissors cannot cut paper they can cut metal mini-blinds.   I learned what 504, IEP, and OCR mean.

Last week I walked into my first public school  IEP meeting in four years.  We had them with the online home school program we use but they have been such a wonderful experience that I have to admit I was a little nervous about how this one was going to go.  Would it be as wonderful as the CAVA (California Virtual Academy) IEPs or would it be as traumatic as the pre-CAVA ones?

It was great.  I love it when you walk into an IEP and those teachers and staff that you are working with as a team in behalf of your child see your child's strengths and weaknesses just the way you do! Could not have asked for more.

Word is - that little bird is flying in high school, just fine.  She's got all As and Bs.  Speech impediment be danged, she tried out for and got a part in the school play!  She is taking high school by storm.

So, it looks like all my baby birds are doing well.  Maybe I can cuddle back into the nest a bit with my two that are still in home school before they get ready to start testing their wings.  Next year will come soon enough.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Make Checklist...Check

Coping mechanisms are our friends.  At least that is what we try and teach our children.  We try to teach them to be honest with themselves about how their brain works.  We encourage them to develop techniques that work for them as individuals.  There is a lot of trial and error because you really have to try different things to see how they work.  Certainly, what works for one won't work for another and with ADD/ADHD what works today may not work tomorrow.

Coping mechanisms are always a work in progress.

For example, my husband Mark loves post-it notes.  He has a complete post-it note system.  They flow across his desk at work like a river, constantly in motion.  The to do post-its on one side.  As he works on that particular item he sticks it on the rim of his computer screen.  Then when he is done it goes in a done pile for that day.  He keeps the done piles in his desk drawers for those moments when someone wants to know when and if some task is done.  It works for him.

If you were to give our son Jaren a stack of post-it notes to keep track of what he needed to do it wouldn't work for him.  In fact, if your gave Jaren a stack of post-it notes nothing would get done because he would be too busy making origami out of each little note.

I did, however, find a checklist hand written by Jaren as we were taking a last walk through the house we just moved out of.  It was taped to the back of the bathroom door.  Very carefully written to help him remember the details of a job that he was doing to earn Mark's old Palm Pilot (an expensive coping mechanism which replaced the expensive Franklin planner, and has since been replaced by a smartphone).

I have to say I'm pretty proud of his effort - especially because it wasn't prompted by us.  This 10 year old thought out what he needed to do and made sure everything was on the list. Carefully numbered each item, he started with waking his brother and sister up, getting dressed, eating, getting his bottle of water from the fridge, getting the Palm Pilot, doing the job which was collecting everything from the yard, and last but not least on the list - take meds.

I got the biggest kick out of that.   What great effort and thought had gone into this plan.  I am excited that all our talk about coping mechanisms is sinking in - a little parental reward for all the long hard work.  Now all we need to work on is getting "take meds" moved up higher on the list - maybe right around eating breakfast.  Certainly, before doing the job, which was the focus of the list, not after the job was done.

Truth is if you take enough baby steps you will eventually get where you are headed!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

No Double Dipping

The Aro family: making simple things hard since 1991 -  this has become our family mantra.  Ever since the post by the same name this little phrase seems to be coming up all the time. The kids have even requested that we get in engraved on a wooden plaque and hang it in the living room.  Maybe we could replace the "poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine" sign; since we all know that is not true at all.  Their poor planning, lack of planning, impulsive planning most definitely dictates my emergencies.

Does this mean we have embraced our malfunction?  I suppose so.

In addition, the kids keep bombarding me with "Making Simple Things Hard" stories to post on the blog.   My husband, who was a little put off by the saying at first, has even come to accept it, and joined in on the fun.  In fact, he came in laughing the other day - he had a story for me too.

Mark went out to the kitchen the other day to find about 20 washed spoons still dripping wet on the counter.  This, naturally, peaked his curiosity.  Though sometimes we do seem to create our own flash mob, this particular morning our two youngest sons were the only ones up.  Jaren, was the quickest to volunteer information.

Hunter had been eating peanut butter, he has a bit of an obsession with it (see: Please, No Memorial Day Repeats).  He did not want to double dip in the jar so he got every spoon we own and used them one at a time - dipping and eating, dipping and eating until he ran out of spoons.

Apparently, Jaren, the first to volunteer information to Daddy, had told Hunter that if he washed all the spoons he wouldn't rat him out.  Hunter, in a panic, had put great effort, even unusual effort to make sure that he didn't get in trouble for his early morning peanut butter binge. He dutifully had washed every spoon and set them on the counter to dry.

After all back and forth explanation, Mark looked at Hunter and said, "Why didn't you just get a bowl, put some peanut butter in it, and use one spoon?"  Hunter's reply summed it all up, "Well, that's just too much work!"

Too much work?  Like washing 20 peanut buttery spoons isn't.

Aro Family: Making Simple Things Hard Since 1991.  I wonder how much it would cost to get that plaque made? 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Moved! Just in Time to Start School

Our summer has been BING! BANG! BOOM!  We packed, we moved, we registered for school and this week everyone started back to school.  I am not sure I have ever been so ready (not prepared, just ready) for school to start.  I don't want the hassle and anxiety of school; but, I am welcoming the end of our chaotic and nerve wracking summer.

doing school at the desk
This week was a barrage of first days of school and registering.  My two that are still home schooling started on Monday after the longest registration process ever (considering they are returning students).  It was a scene from an ADHD horror film.  It was the longest line ever to meet the teacher and sign paperwork.

doing school under the desk
Our teacher was ever too polite and chatty with each parent and student as the line of people waiting for her grew and grew.  Hunter, very ADHD, stood next to me beating his head on my shoulder repeatedly.  He insisted on reminding me, just about ever 30 seconds,  that he hates waiting in line and that he can't handle the noise.  In the end, our teacher and our line were the only ones left in the room. 

Tuesday my oldest two daughters started community college.   As luck would have it our daughter, who has been waiting for college since kindergarten, showed up for her first class only to find the door locked and the classroom dark.  Apparently, the teacher quit the day before classes started.  Neither of our daughters drive yet so they are at our mercy to be dropped off and picked up.  This left Mariah stuck at the school for hours until her next class, distraught that she had yet to experience a college class, and bored. Not necessarily a good combination for any person with ADHD.

She handled every conceivable piece of business she could think of, walked 2.8 billion times around the campus (according to her facebook post), she discovered the computer lab, and then I started seeing posts like this...

"Welcome to my elevator. Stop. Who would enter the Elevator of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see. What is your name? What is your quest? What is the capital of Assyria?"


"LOVE the music video for Dark Blue by Jack's Mannequin, makes me wish I was there. *sighs* nope I'm just here, trollin' in the college computer lab....*face slams of keyboard* *sobs into keyboard* I'M SO LAME!!!! D: WHY????  STOP SPEAKING VERY LOUDLY INTO YOUR CELLPHONE SHORT HAIRY MAN CAN'T YOU SEE I'M SOBBING INTO MY KEYBOARD?!?!?!"

Wednesday Fernie started school.  New district, new programs, new stress.  Fernie came late to our family is and playing catch up educationally.  It has placed him in the very different environment of alternative education.  After a day in this super small class with very creative teachers he said to me that if he could have had this learning environment earlier maybe he would not be so behind in credits. SO true.  

No one should not have to drown before they're thrown a life preserver and yet so many of our school function on this premise. Teachers frustrated that they can't meet all the needs all the time.  Parents frustrated that they can't get the help they need.  Districts frustrated by low budgets and big needs.  All equals up to no programs for smart kids who do not learn well in a traditional environment.  

Hannah, Fernie, and Mary
Thursday my two younger daughters started at the regular high school.  Excited but scary.  They have all been doing home school or online classes for the last 4 years so re-entering a brick and mortar school is bound to be a big adjustment.  To top it off my youngest daughter, Mary, is the child in the family with the most disabilities.  She was joking about how there was not enough room on the form to list them all.

It took me back to elementary school when I would catch the teacher to give her a heads up.  "Mary has ADHD, extreme ADHD, like I swear she has taken her meds and there really is a huge difference but you will probably think she forgot to take them this morning....and she has dyspraxia, I know that is a strange term check out dyslexia and dyscalculia and dysgraphia, she has them all...and a sensory processing disorder and a language processing disorder and a speech problem with stems from the dyspraxia (her motor processing disorder) and she only sees out of one eye. Have a good day!"

It is hard for me to trust the schools with her.  She has been home schooling for he last 4 years and I worry about her in a traditional school setting.  But this is a small school and she really wants to give it a try.  Her counselor boosted my confidence when he told me that he used to teach special ed and really understands learning differences.  Then to top it off when we laid the whole eye thing at his feet he immediately guessed which eye was her strong eye.  He's good.  

And so we are all off and running in our different directions.  It feels like it is going to be a good year!  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Great Migration

We're moving.

Does that thought just make you tired?  Because the thought of loading up our household, our 7 kids, and 4 dogs makes me exhausted.

It's not a planned move. We got notice the other day that the house we have been renting for over 3 years has been foreclosed on.   It's one of the reasons that I've been absent for a little while.  I had to process the thought, we had to make some decisions, we are still making decisions.

In the meantime, I have had this image floating through my mind that I just can't seem to shake.

The image of the Turkey Vulture.  See, the Turkey Vulture has a very unique way of flying.  They ride the thermals in the air so instead of flying neatly and orderly like geese when they migrate they fly in circles.  Circles and circles and circles all they way to their destination.  It looks like a chaotic mess from the ground.  A little intimidating, even scary.  It leaves you wondering what died nearby.

I am pretty sure that is what we look like right now, like a bunch of Turkey Vultures circling our way to where ever we are moving.   We pack, then we realize that we have packed our most favorite item in the whole world, that we can't get to sleep without, and unpack.  We obsess about the change.  We label boxes, excessively.  We throw ourselves into anxiety attacks with the unknowns.  Then glory in the thought of not living with free range cattle intruding into our space and yard all the time or closer to town and a social life.

We are excited about the possibilities and overwhelmed by the unknown.  Desperately trying to make the transition, mentally.  We all know how hard that is for people with ADD/ADHD and we have a whole house of it.

The more I learned about Turkey Vultures the more comparisons I saw.  For example, they rarely flap their wings.  Flapping their wings is awkward and expends an extreme amount of energy so they flap them as little as possible.  Usually only to get started in flight.  Well, that is certainly true about ADD/ADHD.  Getting started is so difficult and often awkward.

Getting anyone in our house started, especially on packing, expends a tremendous amount of energy. 

Once they get started in flight they catch a thermal and ride it for as long as they can, flying higher and higher until they start to descend.  They will glide down until they catch another air thermal and ride that back up.  They basically repeat the process over and over.

You seeing it, I'm seeing it.

And not just in regards to packing.  Though it certainly applies to packing.  It took most of the day to get everyone going and then they started packing and rode that air thermal as long and as far as they could.  They wanted to pack just about everything in sight.  We must have packed 15 or 20 boxes.  Then they hit the descent, caught another air thermal, and one by one they were gone.

It may appear as if we are making no progress as we circle in the air.  We are certainly not as fast, organized, or effective as geese; but, rest assured we will get there.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tales of Tails

Interesting conversation over breakfast this morning.  Four or five of the kids were in the kitchen getting breakfast.  This is one of the times of day when we have the most interesting conversations in our home.  Mornings and evenings.  There are not filters on the brain because meds have not kicked in yet or they are long gone.  One of them will get on a subject and it just rolls forward from there.

There is no rhyme of reason to where the morning discussions come from or where they go.  They have gone as deep as religious questions.   They have heatedly argued the merits of white bread vs. wheat bread.  They have waxed intellectual and explored history going into depth about Napoleon's conquests and down falls.  Today, it was tails.

What would life be like with a tail.  How would it feel to sit if you had a tail?  How would you have to alter clothing if you had a tail?  What if all your clothes had to have a hole for a tail?  Would you have a short tail or a long tail?  If you had a long tail, would you have control of it?  Could you wrap it around yourself?  

I can honestly say I have never thought about what it would be like to have a tail, ever.

The conclusions were varied.  It would be awesome to have one, a third arm.  Another tool if in a fist fight. It would definitely get in the way.   A nuisance, you would have to cut holes in all the nice underwear.  Uncomfortable to sit on, certainly.

I can hardly wait to hear tomorrows morning conversation.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Please, No Memorial Day Repeats

As we are approaching the 4th of July I can't help but find myself pleading with Heaven that we don't repeat our Memorial Day mayhem.  The injury was not all that bad but the drama surrounding it wore me out.

It all started with a little obsession.  Weed eating.  My son had made a deal with his father; a video game in exchange for weeding around the house.  This was a big deal.  Hunter became the very definition of hyper focused.  I would never have guessed that, as a parent, I would have to tell a child to stop doing a chore but he was obsessed.

No, Hunter, you may not weed eat in the rain with an electric weed eater.  No, Hunter, you may not weed eat at the crack of dawn.  No, Hunter, you may not strap a flash light to your head and weed eat in the dark.

He was freaking out.  Late rains in the season and weed eater malfunctions were tripping him up.  He was sure that the weeds he had already whacked were growing again.  Finally, all things combined in his favor and we let him back at the yard.  The problem, once he started he wouldn't stop.  We were trying to keep him hydrated, and make him eat.  We finally had to pull the plug and make him stop.  He was very upset.

I consoled him by sending him to the shower, one of his favorite ways to calm down when overstimulated, and telling him to get a snack when he was finished.

He took his shower and headed straight for the peanut butter.  He and his oldest sister are obsessed with peanut butter, they could both eat it all day.  She, however, is much taller and to preserve it for herself stashes it on the top shelf of the cabinets in the kitchen, high above the counters.  Hunter is used to jumping up on the counters to reach it.

This time his aim was off.  He gouged his head on the cupboard corner.  Heads naturally bleed easily and his hair was still dripping wet from the shower.  Blood went everywhere.  Screaming filled the house.  It should be mentioned that Hunter, in addition to ADHD, is very obsessive.  In fact, he has self proclaimed "safety issues."  This is the boy that told me he saw the jaws of life on a TV show and thinks we should get a set for the trunk of the car "just in case."

This is the wrong child to have blood pouring down his head.

We spring into action.  Mark, the first aid guru, goes to look at the wound.  Fernie is trying to help calm Hunter down.  Jaren, who has quite a history with stitches, is lending his support.  I am trying to find my shoes, phone, keys and thinking about how long the ER wait is going to be for a minimal head wound on Memorial Day.

In the mean time I catch wind of an argument brewing.  Hunter's two oldest sisters are arguing over who is going to the ER with him.  Rachel is complaining that Mariah always goes.  It's true, she does, she hates worrying about people that are hurt and not being there to know what is going on.  Waiting is bad, waiting at home feeling helpless is worse.  Consequently, she has been present at nearly everyone in the houses traumatic moments.  It is a favor, really, to all those that would have to sit at home with her and endure her freaking out if she were left home.

Rachel, is so socially deprived by living in the secluded foothills, that the ER on Memorial Day seems like a great way to interact with society.  Clearly, I need to get her into town more.

I hesitated to take them both, the last time I did that was when Rachel went for torn ligaments.  She was so annoyed by her sisters inability to wait that she tried to safe surrender her to the workers in the ER.  "Is there an age or size limit on the safe surrender?"  Rachel asked the man at the admissions desk.  He looked very supportive and understanding as he started to explain the policy. "Cause, I want to surrender her."  she said as she pointed to her then 16 year old sister.

Both girls are now following me around pointing out why they should be the one to go with and how they have Hunter's best interest at heart.  Mary runs by with electrical tape.  Mark is applying direct pressure.  Hannah is serving up cheese cake and peanut butter, feeding the traumatized masses.  Mary is looking for paper towels.  The girls are still arguing.  I don't think Hunter wants either of them to come at this point.

He wants his Dad and Fernie.  Fernie, went with us when he had to have his eyelid stitched up because he ran into another scout.  Fernie, attentively talked about different weapons for hours while we traveled to the ER for that set of stitches and kept Hunter calm. 

I keep telling to girls to stop arguing, it doesn't matter who is going at the moment.  I am trying to call a friend who is a nurse to see if she can look at it.  I am thinking, I really don't want to go to the ER on Memorial Day, spend hours at the bottom of the injury totem poll, and contract some other evil illness that is waiting patiently for me there. 

Mary announces that she has fixed the cupboard, making it safer.  Hannah, hands me cheese cake, that is my weakness, definitely a comfort.  She hands Hunter cheese cake and a huge spoonful of the elusive peanut butter.  The girls are still arguing.

Donna, the nurse, answers the phone.  Thank goodness, she had just gotten home to our remote neighborhood, divine timing for sure.  The girls are still arguing as we pull out of the driveway to have her check his wound.  It is small, Mark tells me, but a little deep. 

Thank goodness she was home, she spared us an ER visit with sound advice and good instructions.

No one went to the ER.  Mariah didn't have to worry.  Rachel missed the stimulating social interaction, but lived.  Hunter's head stopped bleeding and he happily ate his peanut butter.

Everything went back to our normal dull roar of chaos.  Soon you could hear me say, "No, Hunter, you may not weed eat with a head wound."

Monday, June 27, 2011

An Obsession Named Steve

 A couple of months ago one of my teenage daughters decided she needed an exercise boost.  I think she saw the third year hike and repelling coming up quickly at Girl's Camp and wanted to prepare.  She picked a walk video that is the equivalent of a 2 mile walk.

She has been dedicated!  Everyday Leslie would enthusiastically enter our living room with her cast of walkers and, peppy as can be, take everyone on a walk.  As she goes through the video - excitedly introducing one walker after another it become very apparent that there is only one guy walker, Steve. 

This caught the attention of Mary's two little brothers.  Both boys are young, to young to have the bulky fit build of a man.  They are still very much in the lean stage of life.  For some reason though, this man's build has caught their focus and all they have been able to talk about is Steve's big, well defined calve muscles.  They want them.  Never mind the fact that Steve is a grown man and they have yet to become teenagers.

Regardless, the obsession has picked itself and nothing can pull them away from the walk video or long conversations about someday having calves like Steve.  Steve, even gets conversation air time now when the video is not even running.  What does Steve eat to have calves like that?  What does he do in his spare time?  It has gotten a little, well creepy, innocent but creepy.

It became clear the other day that we had reached a whole new level of obsession.

We were running errands, having a very ADHD conversation.  You know the ones, it hopped, skipped, and jumped from subject to subject.  Those conversations are the norm for our house.  I am not sure where it started but the conversation jumped from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to purple faces, to steroid use.

Steroid use is a concept that our young sons had never heard of so it took some explaining.  We were talking about how athletes use performance enhancing steroids can harm their bodies, how they can make you look purple, how people use them to bulk up and give them an edge physically in competition.

That was all they had to hear was the word "bulk" you could feel the despair from the back seat.  In shock and horror the voice of disappointment and concern rang out, "You mean...Steve, takes steroids?!"

My husband hadn't yet heard all about Steve and his perfectly defined, manly calves.  He was a little confused. We worked through it, talked the boys off ledge.  We explained that we didn't think that Steve took steroids.  Just because you have good, bulky, well defined calves doesn't mean that you take steroids.  Crisis averted.  Obsession intact.

Our daughter got off to Girl's Camp to hike the hike and repel down the side of rocks.  While she was gone this week the boys kept plugging away at the walk video.  Hunter even went so far as to put on ankle weights, the ones he usually used to help calm himself down when he gets over stimulated, to help bulk up his legs.

He was going to town, they were doing their thing, waiting for eventual reward of big bulky man calves when they noticed I was getting pictures of them doing the exercise video (for the blog of course).  One of them blurted out, "You're taking pictures?  Great! get a good picture of Steve's calves!"

Yep, definitely an obsession, an obsession named Steve.

* Steve walks on Leslie Sonsone's Walk at Home - The Big Burn 2 Miles of Intervals work out video

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Making Simple Things Hard

My daughter announced today that we have a way of making simple things hard...

Well, that is true.  We do have that tendency.

As illustrated by her younger brother who just an hour or so later pulled out the juicer, not the fancy powered kind the old fashioned hand juicer kind, and a bag of grapes.  As the pulled out a tiny grape and headed to the tip of the juicer he announce, "It's going to take the whole bag but it's going to be GREAT!"

His idea and passion and the quest for fresh squeezed grape juice had over powered any sense of reason.  Certainly, this has happened with more than just some grape juice.  I can think of a bunch of examples of the top of my head.  In fact, it may be where our favorite family term "masochistically creative" was born.   We are creative to our own detriment at times. (t-shirts are available for purchase if you feel like you can identify with us)

Whatever the endeavor, project, or idea those in our house have a tendency to lose site of reason in the face of a good cause or idea.  Sometimes, it works to our benefit, like this Father's Day when Jaren came up with the idea of making fake goatees and all wearing black (Mark usually wears black) to honor their Dad.  Sometimes, it shoots us in the foot, like countless concoctions made of every bathroom toiletry available and maybe some of your older sister's expensive make-up.

Sometimes, it falls right on the border between a great idea and trouble.  Like the fort Mary made in the backyard out of scrap wood - Shambala.  It is almost always entertaining.
That is the benefit of a checks and balances system in our home, not that we catch everything, clearly we don't.  It always pays to have someone, anyone, who in a moment of clarity can help you see that your idea, while brilliant, may not be very practical.  We saved the bag of grapes, this time. 

As my daughter put it, "The Aro family, making simple things hard since 1991!"

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Google, What Did I Ever Do To You?

Early this week Fernie came out of the back room where he had been working on his online classes.  I am not sure he even walked down the hall -- I think it was more that his excitement teleported him instantaneously down the hall and into the living room.  He could hardly speak.

The gist was this.  Google launched a new Google image on their home page in honor of Les Paul, a fully playable  guitar.

That was it -- the moment I lost any hope of getting anyone to stay focused.

You see, we do home-school, the education option that we chose to help eliminate the distractions of the classroom.  Thank you, Google, for bringing an irresistible distraction right onto the computers we log onto every day to do school.

Did I mention it is a fully playable guitar?  You can strum it, over and over again, and they did...they all did.

Normally, these cool Google designs last a day in honor of a person or event.  I think I could have managed a day of redirecting 6 kids back to school work every few minutes with the sound knowledge that it would was just a fleeting distraction.  Unfortunately, it was such a fantastic success they decided to extend it, to honor him all week.
Don't get me wrong -- it is very cool.  The problem here, it's cooler than pretty much all their classes, certainly cooler than math.  So, I spent much of the week shutting down multi-player guitar jam sessions, listening to long Google guitar concerts, braking up virtual guitar arguments, and trying to get people to get back to work and stay on it.

Of course, every time they went to do research for class or switch websites there it was calling to their ADHD brains.  It reminded me of a bumper sticker I saw years ago that said...lead me not into temptation, for I shall find it myself.  It's amazing how much research was "required" this week.  Suddenly, everyone wanted to write a research paper.

It also reminded me of something my son said this morning.  He was talking about the difference between being medicated and when his medicine wears off or hasn't started working.   "It is amazing how when I am unmedicated I can only focus on things that I want to focus on.  When I am medicated it's easier to focus on things I don't want to focus on." he said, "When I am unmedicated if I don't want to do it, I can't focus on it at all!  If it is fun it's all I can think about.  If it's not fun I can't hardly make myself think about it."

The guitar was a lot of fun, probably thought up by someone with ADD/ADHD.

Shhh....apparently, you can still play it here!