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!

Friday, March 25, 2011

A One Man Circus, an Assistant, and a Magician

We often discuss whether something that has happened in the house is blog worthy.  Mark, my husband, gave me a standard to follow the other day.  He said, "if you laugh so hard that you cry, it is definitely blog worthy."  He said that as he was laughing and crying about the very stories you're about to read.

Jaren is 10 years old now.  It seems impossible because I swear he was just a preemie in the NICU a couple days ago and preschooler yesterday.  In preschool Jaren decided that we had completely misnamed him.  He wanted to know why on earth we had named him Jaren when XO Aro was available and a much better name for a spy.  He took it very seriously.  He insisted on being called XO Aro and signed all of his papers by the same name. This while writing everything in perfect mirror image.

I really consider this intense imagination and thought process our first signs of his ADD/ADHD.  XO was part of a long string of characters which included Fasty Walks Through Walls.  He would run as fast as he could in circles, then stop and say, "Was I fast?  Did I make your hair flip up?"  At about 3 years old he announced we could call him Peter Parker because the spider bite transformation was complete.  Then there was The Phantom of the Opera, he grabbed his preschool teachers hand and started singing her songs from the musical at recess one day.

While eventually he gave up on being renamed XO Aro, he has never left behind his complete obsession with spies and spy gear.

This Christmas we gave him a present that I don't think we will ever be able to top.  It was not super expensive but it was perfect for him.  We created a spy case for him.  We got a little silver briefcase, filled it with black foam, and made cut outs for all kinds of tools.  There is a mag-light with a belt carrier, a light that straps to your head that can be a regular or red light, there are rubber ninja throwing stars, and a multi-tool with a tiny flashlight, among other things.  There was even room to add some items he already had, like a Swiss Army type knife. 

This case has been carried nearly everywhere since Christmas morning. He uses it constantly, and shows it to everyone that will look at it.

Yesterday, Jaren came into the living room waving a multi-tool in one hand and the Swiss Army knife in the other.  He was a little hesitant but he asked his big brother, Hunter, if he wanted to play.  I would guess that nothing could have prepared him for his sister's reaction.  Mary screamed in horror, "No!  Are you stupid?  Mom will be really pissed if she finds out you were knife fighting during break!"

Uh, for the record, mom will be,"really pissed" if she finds out you were knife fighting at anytime, not just during break. Mom also doesn't like it when you use words like "stupid" and "pissed".  Though I do understand that they were used as excited utterances in this case.

Even though she was only a few feet away, she had completely missed the part of the conversation where Jaren said that he wanted to use the multi-tools as Transformers in a pretend game.  She saw the knives and assumed that she knew what the boys were up to.  She was sure that Jaren was asking Hunter if he wanted to have a knife fight with him.

Typical ADHD moment in our house.  Typical that the boys would look at a multi-tool or Swiss Army knife and see a Transformer and want to play a game with them.  Typical that people would not be completely engaged in the conversation, only catching part of the information.  Typical that they would jump to a conclusions, based on the partial information.  Certainly typical that they would react without getting the details first.

This all happened on a day when Hunter was trying to come up with some good entertainment for my anniversary evening, especially since Mark was not going to be home (see post: 20 Years Ago Today).  He decided he was going to put on a juggling act.  This was no small task since he has never juggled before.  Onto the internet for quick reference juggling lessons.  He would create, as he called it, "A one man circus."  He had already recruited Jaren to be his assistant.

The balls were flying in multiple directions all around the living room.  The dog, who is more than obsessed with tennis balls, was trying to grab them midair.  Mariah had a very valid question, "How can you call it a one man circus if you have an assistant?"  Hunter was quick to point out that it was really a one man circus, with an assistant, and a magician.  He had recruited Mary who was now madly looking up card tricks.

Silly Mariah, she didn't understand the impact of a name.  Hunter explained, "A one man circus, with an assistant, and a magician sounds much better than a three man circus."   This was proclaimed while practicing the grand finale.  He was trying to juggle while standing on his little brother's back, who was on all fours trying to turn around in a circle.

I don't know, most days I might name it my very own a three ring circus. Definitely entertaining.

* As a side note -- they never actually put on the circus they had practiced in front of me on and off all day -- they got distracted.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

20 Years Today

When my husband called and told me that the last day to work on "the film" (Finding Hope Now) before the latest version was sent off to be screened at the Houston WorldFest International Film Festival was the 23rd of March I laughed out loud.  How very fitting that our 20th wedding anniversary would be the day before probably one of the most significant deadlines of my husband's career.

Fitting, because he is an artist and has worked in various fields of the entertainment industry most of our marriage.  An industry always in a constant state of emergency and deadline.  We called it "crunch" mode when he worked in the platform/computer game industry.  The give it all you have -- work endless hours to meet the deadline --  time.  Fitting, because so much of our marriage has been spent in "crunch" mode.

So, tonight he will be at the studio doing the visual effect for the "retaliation" scene and I will be here with the kids.  We are meeting half way between our house and the studio for an anniversary kiss at 4:00pm.  And making plans to celebrate our 20th on another day.

I am sure there are people who could not or would not understand me being okay with the situation so let me explain. 

First of all, I think this might be a perfect example of how ADD/ADHD  is interwoven through our life and marriage.  People talk about "normal" but really normal is whatever patterns we create in our own life.  Normal is personal.  If we were to approach life trying to meet other peoples' standard of "normal" we would be constantly frustrated and unhappy.  It would be like trying to fit the round peg into the square hole. We have unique challenges in our marriage because of ADD/ADHD and have to have unique solutions to match them.

Mark, my husband, has learned how to wield the power of hyper-focus like a sword but when he is in mindset that allows him to stay on task he has to really stay in it. Meaning, he has to hold onto that state of mind with both hands.  He can't go in and out of it and maintain it.  As a result, he would rather work hours on end to accomplish a task than an hour a day for several days to accomplish the same task.

Half the battle with ADD/ADHD is learning how your individual brain works and use that to work smart.  I could say I have to have him work on my schedule, on a "normal" schedule, but in reality it would not work for him.  It works against his brain and the way it functions.  So, we compromise.  We use that hyper-focus to be successful and we bend our family around what works for us.

For years that has meant working his regular hours, then having family time, then back to work or time for personal projects when the house was quiet.  Mark is a doer, another ADD/ADHD trait.  He is not satisfied to sit and do nothing.  That probably has to do with the millions of ideas that are his constant companion.  Even when he has had time in the evenings, like he has since he started working at the news station, he cannot just sit. 

We were laughing just today that even his work station is set up to multitask (very ADD/ADHD concept)  he has dual monitors on his computer system.  He has a mouse hooked up to be used with his left hand and a Wacom drawing tablet hooked up to be used with his right.  He can use the mouse and draw carrying out tasks on both screens at nearly the same time.

We adjust to meet different circumstances, different commutes, different jobs.  The key being here that we adjust.  We also have an agreement that family takes priority, so even if Mark is working and in the groove of what he is doing he will stop and be there to help put the world back together for a worn out wife, traumatized teens, or anxiety ridden little ones.   Whether it is face to face, on the phone, text, or by email we stay in close contact. 

Through those now 20 years of marriage there has been a constant theme.  I keep Mark from floating off into the atmosphere and he gets my feet to leave the ground every once in awhile.  He has arguably been given the harder task.  In the middle, we find balance of sorts, hovering just above the ground. 

I have discovered I can wait, I am not that good at it, but I can do it.  This cause, this movie, which has been our lives for the last 2 1/2 years is worth pushing off the celebration of those twenty years.  It marks a milestone in Mark completing a life long goal to work in film.

The anniversary gift, the biggest one, is to see this long planned passion and goal come to life and be recognized.  The ultimate gift is that at the end of the week the studio, about an hour away form our home, gets dismantled and reassembled in our house.  No more commuting home only on the weekends.  There will be new adjustments, a new normal to create but I am rather looking forward to this one.  Maybe the best anniversary present yet.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Waiting is Definitely the Hardest Part

It is no secret that waiting is generally not the strong suit of people with ADHD.  I am personally not a huge fan of it either but I usually enjoy the forced break that comes with it.  To my children and husband it is torture.  Unfortunately, life is a whole lot of waiting.

Because we live in the country and all our doctors are in the city, about an hour away, we rarely "go to town" for just one appointment.  Monday was one of those days where we were waiting in several doctors' offices.  The day really started to drag on.  By the time that Hunter finished his med check appointment with our psychiatrist he looked at our beloved Dr. House and announced, "I have noticed that even when I am sitting still, I can't sit still."

He meant that even when he was able to sit in one place, like in the waiting room, he couldn't stop moving and fidgeting.  I have proof.

I said in my post, My Soap Box Moment, that life in our house was a continuum between my expectations and what my kids can do.  They have learned over the years that I will tolerate a little movement, quiet talking and a few other things while waiting in public places.  I have learned that I generally have to remind them where that line is.  They will go until I tell them to pull it back a bit - or as we say in our family, "reel it back in."

I will give you an example, in a crowded room my young sons are generally gentlemen, they get up so that some one else can have a seat.  I like that.  Their father has taught them that.  They are still on the small side so they can usually share a chair if need be but not until Jaren has hopped on Hunter's lap Santa style and blurted out, "...and I want a pony, and a PlayStation, and a..."

They would just keep going if I were not there to put a damper on their fun with a mommy look and mommy voice guiding, "okay, reel it back in."

Monday, Hunter didn't have his partner in comedic crime.  He had me and his oldest sister who was far more interested in spending some quality time with the computer.

He did, however, have his three eyed monster hat.  While at first he was clearly bored it was clear that he realized that there was great potential in his hat.

He could turn himself into a complete and total monster.

He could have eyes in the back of his head.

His mind wandered,  Dr. House had not seen the hat so he wanted to surprise him with the awesomeness of it all.  He decided to take the hat off.

It was okay though, he still had hands.  Eyes open...........Eyes closed.

Open...closed.  Open...closed.  Open...closed.

That hat was still pretty tempting.  He twirled it around.  He made a puppet.  Hmmm....big sister is getting annoyed.  She may be 19 years old but she is really not that much better at waiting.  She goes in for the ...gentle reminder.
Which sparks a completely new train of thought.  Now he wants to be choked, lovingly of course, but he wants her to wait.  He holds his breath so that he can get a really red face to make it look more realistic.

After all, who can resist a good death scene.

Friday, March 4, 2011

My Soapbox Moment

Someone said to me the other night that they saw the picture of my kids bahooties on Facebook - they wanted to make sure I knew about it.  I know about it -- I put it there.  Actually, I told the person, it was on Facebook because I was letting people know that I had a new blog post up.  I tried to explain the purpose of the blog but I think it wasn't really clicking.

I suppose that might seem a little wrong or improper to some people to post details of our lives that might make us look "bad."  First of all , let me assure you that everyone in the house knows what I post before I post it.  At least the content.  Most of the time they read everything I post, they help me remember the details,  listen to how it is flowing and help find the pictures. In fact, if it weren't for their technical savvy there would be no blog.

Occasionally one slips by, this morning my oldest did ask why a picture of her shoes were on the blog. I told her, because you didn't put them away in the shoebox (Parkas in Summer, Shorts in the Winter).  She had listened to the blog but hadn't seen the pictures I put up until this morning. 

Second, I have a bunch of kids, six natural and certainly more than a few we have collected along the way, I got over "looking bad"  to the public a long time ago.  It doesn't mean that I don't care about it.  For example, I want my kids to be well groomed, respectful of their environment, and well mannered.  But as my father has always said, "wanting and getting are two different things." Most of the time we are somewhere in between.  Life is certainly a continuum in our house.

I am under no delusion that they are perfect or will be perfect.  No one is perfect.  Heaven knows that is doubly true with ADHD.   I believe that we are what we are.  It doesn't mean that we are not trying to be better and learning as we go but we are where we are at for today.

Today that means we were geeking out at the library book sale, waiting for Mary's speech therapy session, overwhelming the poor white haired librarian.  She made the mistake of directing Hunter to the books for young readers.  He politely explained that he read on a college level, which he does, then started on his knowledge of all things Tolkien.  He even showed her his folder where he is keeping his notes -- he is learning to speak the Dark Tongue of Mordor.

Last week the same young man had his bahootie in the air and his head down in the freezer case with his siblings for no particular reason.  He is the one with his feet dangling in the air.

I am a firm believer that there is no progress in pretending that we are something we are not.  Everyone has to start somewhere and real progress comes when we can say this is where I am right now.  This is what I need to change. This is how I am going to work on that.  Then get busy.  Life is a process of growth and change.  That is certainly what I have tried to teach my children as we daily work bit by bit on ourselves.  Not just them, me too.

Third, being frank about our lives is the purpose of the blog.  It is to explore what life is like - the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It is all about the way the brains in this house operate, why they work the way they do, how that effects all of us (ADHD or not).  It is all about our struggles and our triumphs.  It is about finding humor along the way.  It is about bringing awareness and personalizing ADHD to the both the ADHD community and those that work and interact with those who have ADHD.

Statistics are truly all over the place but it is safe to say that between 7 - 10% of our population have been diagnosed with ADHD.  Certainly there are more that have not been.  Odds are that everybody at one point or another will interact with someone who is ADHD.

Which means this blog, our experiences, are for everybody.

* On a side note -- the same boy that reads on a college level put potato pearls in his yogurt this morning instead of granola because the packages are similar and he wasn't paying attention.  

Imagine That

Rachel was about 10 or 11 years old, she came screaming  down the stairs in a full panic.  It scared the living daylights out of me - I was sure that someone was badly injured.

When I finally got her calmed down enough to speak, the story came pouring out.  They had made a make believe pool in their bedroom with blankets on the floor.  Rachel was freaked out, Mary wouldn't listen to her - Mary was about 4 or 5years old at the time. 

This was not a new problem.  For some unknown reason, Mary, since she could communicate, had insisted that she was the oldest child in the house.  You can imagine how well this went over.  Rachel had the position, all the pressure, and responsibility but no amount of convincing could change Mary's mind - she was the oldest.

Gasping as she was crying Rachel explained, "Mary is swimming in the deep end of the pool.  SHE'S TOO YOUNG!  SHE CAN"T SWIM IN THE DEEP END - SHE'S GOING TO DROWN!"

Drown...in the imaginary pool?

Rachel was not sure how to take my relief - to her the possibility of real injury was as real as the pool was in her imagination.  I explained that life was pretty unfair if you couldn't swim in the deep end of the imaginary pool regardless of your age or skill level.  It took some convincing, but, we moved on.

Imagination has never been in short supply at our house.  In fact, imagination has been and is still central in our home.  It is another character trait that seems altered and heightened by ADHD.  This post could probably have been Creativity and ADHD Part III.  The imaginary world has such a  powerful presence in the lives of our children that is sometimes it trumps or replaces reality.

Rachel's imaginary friend, Da Da, was so real that when it was time for her to go Rachel announced that she had moved to Detroit.  At the time I had no idea she even was aware of a city called Detroit.  Young Mariah, who is very creative but much more left brained than her sister, ended up in front of her dad one night with a very serious question, "I don't understand, where do I get an imaginary friend?"

I suppose she figured it out as she has become quite the comedian, her imitations and accents combined with her make believe conversations leave us in tears from laughter.  They became the outlet for her imagination.  Somewhere along the line she figured out that imaginary friends were created not found.

When Rachel was in kindergarten her classmates would line up for a part in the plays that she put on during recess.  Her plots and back stories were extensive and detailed.  As she grew up she exerted her rank as oldest to enlist her siblings in her plots.  She even made them sign contracts to attend practices and perform.

Her siblings were her living imagination -  the actors on her stage.  Whether it was kings and queens or a superhero luncheons they were, for the most part, willing participants. Mariah might disagree since she spent much of her younger years as the prince, "Hand Lewis" (really Han Solo), or whatever other male character that Rachel dreamed up before the brothers were old enough to participate.

Is it wrong that Mary answered to Chewy or Chewbacca from she was 2 to about 5 years old?  That was always her role in the Star Wars plays.

As Rachel grew older her stage changed from the living room and backyard to a sketch book and computer screen. 

Now her imagination comes to life through the characters in her stories and drawings.  They have likes and dislikes, pasts, issues, hobbies, Facebook pages.  We had to have a "talk" when one of her friends was unknowingly flirting with a fictional character online.

It all rubbed off.

Sometimes, I wonder what the neighbors think.  What would you think if you drove by and a little ninja was scaling a pillar on someones front porch?  Or you looked out your window to see your new neighbors running around with painted hand prints on their faces like Orcs from The Lord of the Rings peering around the corners of the house.  Sometimes the kids remind me of the grandfather in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, dressed up in whatever appropriate garb and headed out to whatever imaginary world awaits beyond the front door.

Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't change it.  Even when that wild imagination becomes a lot to manage -- and it does, even when I am tired and worn out; I would rather have that floating around my house than so many of the alternatives.  In fact, so many times when I am at the end of my rope or I've slipped off, it is that imagination that makes me laugh and puts life back in perspective.  It is wonderful, especially in a world where those simple parts of childhood seem to be slipping away.

Heaven knows the realities of this world take over soon enough.