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!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mum, I Think I Might Have ODD

It's not like I haven't thought it a million times; but, I will have to say I was stunned when my daughter brought it up herself.

We were talking about ADD/ADHD and all the many co-occurring conditions when she just put it out there, "Mum, I think I have ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder).  I can't help it!  If someone tells me to do something -- even if I want to do it -- the moment they tell me to I would rather die than do it.  I just instinctively don't want to do anything I am told to do."

Many, many moments flashed through my head.

I thought about when she was three and would tell me that I was, "following Satan's plan,"  every time I made her stand in the corner.  She would clinch her little fists, "Heavenly Father is not pleased with you!"

I thought about when she wouldn't read Accelerated Reader List books (AR books) and got in trouble for not having enough AR points.  Turns out she was reading tons of books, some were even on the list; but, refused to take the tests or let anyone know that she was reading books on the list while she was a part of the AR program. 

Maybe, the time she had the whole school sign petitions to allow backless sandals in elementary school because she thought it was wrong that the school was dictating what shoes she could wear.  How many pairs of backless sandals did she own?  NONE.  It wasn't the point it was another way she was being told what to do.

How about this for a ODD moment?  In junior high there was a line painted on the cement that the students weren't supposed to cross during lunch or break.  My daughter would stand right over the line...because...she had to.  The fact that the line was right there, painted on the cement, and the lunch monitor was right there watching made it irresistible. 

Pick a moment, any moment really, because if you told her what to do in any way you can bet that she would dig her heals in and oppose it.  The flip side has always been that left to her own devices she would self regulate pretty well.  It has always been a better option to present her with the information, the standards, the consequences, and let her choose.

Consequences being the key.  She had to know what each path would yield in simple immovable terms.  

No tug of war in our house, that has always been the goal and actually the advice my husband has given in dealing with the kids.  With her that has been even more important.  A tug of war would lead to endless conflict not obedience. 

So, we set out on a path with her and our other children.  In a super simplified way it goes like this; we present what we want or what we expect.  She presents her concerns and her opinion.  We address concerns.  We present the consequences, positive and negative.  Not complicated, simple, most of the time just one positive and one negative.  We ask her questions that help her come to a decision, to make her choice.  The choice is made and consequences follow.

Granted it rarely happens and clean and clinical as I just wrote out but it has worked.

When my kids were littler they hated having their little hand held.  There was no way I was going to let them just run around but fighting over holding their hand got really old.  Then by chance one day the solution presented itself.  I said to one of my toddlers, "Okay, I won't hold your hand but you have to hold onto my fingers."  I put two fingers out for them to grab a hold of.

The problem and arguments stopped.  I can hold your hand or you can hold mine.  Either way, the goal is accomplished.  All that really changed was they were allowed to have a sense of control.  Whether we are young or old we like to have a sense of control over our actions. 

Strong willed or ODD I am sure there is a diagnostic line in there somewhere.  Truth is I would probably answer her question with a resounding, "Yes, I think you have ODD and I am glad that you recognize that tendency in yourself.  When you recognize it in yourself is when you really start to make progress in overcoming it."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sucker Punched

I am tired.

I am tired from staying up late with kids who have insomnia, kids that are worried and need the world put back together.  I am tired of the emotions of not understanding social skills; both for them and for me.  I am tired of social skills stories to teach what comes innately to other kids.  Tired of emotional scales to register when life is overstimulating.  Situational scales.  It's a lot of work.

I am tired of OCD, SPD, ADHD, ODD, and all the other initials in my life.

I am tired of reading every quality book I can find on them looking for knowledge, understanding, and new coping mechanisms that might tip the scales in my child's favor.  I am tired of the space it takes up on my bookshelf. 

I am tired of working for years to teach kids how to read -- dyslexia.  How to do math facts-- dyscalculia.   How to write -- dysgraphia.  I am tired of dyspraxia.

I am tired of homeschooling so that my children don't get left behind in a classroom full of distractions, at a pace and in a style that doesn't work for them.  I am tired of us being the square peg being jammed in the round hole.

Tired of driving miles to doctors appointments, getting prescriptions, delivering prescriptions, picking up prescriptions.  No one should know their pharmacist as well as I know ours.

Some dear family of ours got hit up-side the head with the "bad parenting" myth recently.  It has me over flowing with frustration and anger.  Just ask my husband and kids, they have had to listen to me rant about it endlessly.  To put this much work into parenting and then have someone accuse you of being a bad parent, is really a sucker punch.

It is the biggest irony of all. 

Our kids, speaking collectively,  have neuro-biological conditions that effect how their brains work.  If we could control it, keep the wonderful parts and ditch the struggles, we would.  That is what we are working for when we read, talk, drive, work in behalf of our children.  The irony is that we are working so hard to be good parents and yet that stigma, the assumption when things go wrong, is still that bad choices are caused by bad parents.

The irony is that by and large we are great parents hidden by disorders of appearance.

Really, how many books has the average parent read on parenting?  How many seminars has the parent of a child without all these differences attended?  How many nights in a row have they been up until 2 or 3 in the morning talking to a fretful child?  How much conscious behavior modeling, social story-boarding, and role playing have they done? 

The truth is that we will take being tired, exhausted, even sucker punched for our kids.  We will do everything in our power to help our kids overcome their struggles, even though progress is painfully slow. All with hope that the world can catch a glimpse of their greatness, the greatness we see, even though their flaws are often the most public.

I am tired of assumptions.  If you are going to judge me as a parent, if you are going to judge any of us in our family of disorders, then take a walk in our shoes.  Spend hours trying to get homework done that every other kid finishes in less than an hour.  Get everyone up early so that you can try and be on time, then be late because your child forgot the very basic routine of getting dressed.  Get chased down by a teacher anxious to point out your child's latest classroom exploits.  Or by a coach because your child is picking daisies while the game play passes him by.  Or by another parent because your child said or did something offensive.

Walk in my shoes, then you might see my children's indiscretions, impulsiveness, outburst, and meltdowns in a different light. You might measure their progress differently than you do now.  You might see the greatness I see.  A day in my shoes might bring empathy for our kids and their parents.  It might cultivate understanding and ease sucker punches.

I am tired, but I wouldn't change one thing I do in behalf of my children.  Most of the parents I know, struggling with similar situations, feel the same.  Our children are worth every ounce of effort and more.

I am tired, but it's worth it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Seveny, Seventy, Seventy-Five Pounds!

There is a new song ringing through the halls of our home.  A song of excitement, accomplishment, and pure joy!  

Seventy five pounds, I am seventy five pounds!
Seventy five pounds, I am seventy five pounds!
Seventy -- seventy -- seventy five pounds...EX-ACT-LY!

This should be compared to the 71.4 pounds he was just a couple of weeks ago.  Maybe he was right.  Maybe that gigantic Superior Dairy ice cream really was just what he needed (see Space Dirt, Politics and Life ).  One thing for sure, that 75 pounds has definitely been worked for.

I am afraid that our boys struggles in this particular area may be our fault as parents.  At my tallest I was barely 5 feet 2 inches tall.  My husband is easily 6 feet 3 inches tall.  When we were engaged and first married we used to joke about having tall girls and short boys.  That is not nearly as funny as it used to be. 

Hunter has always been just a few steps ahead of his younger brother in height, sometimes barely an inch.  Both have been on the small side.  Right now, Hunter is 4 feet 7.5 inches and Jaren is 4 feet 6 inches.  While he loves his brother, you can see him deflate when people ask him if they are twins.  Just about everyone asks him if they are twins.

As a parent you worry for your kids.  So, I have read the studies about ADHD boys and growth.  Done my praying for forgiveness, "Really it was just a joke...short girls and tall boys are fine.  Or just make them tall.  I could carry a step stool around so we can see eye to eye when I give them a learning experience."  I have held out hope that, like the studies indicate, in the end they will be close to, if not as tall as their adult male counterparts.  They dipped so heavily in their father's end of the gene pool with everything else, there has to be height in there somewhere.

In the end, nothing is more satisfying than buying several pairs of new shoes every month or two, because his feet are growing.  Disproportionally big feet, long apes arms, lanky legs, for right now he is growing like an animated character, one awkward stage at a time.  But he is finally growing!  I can totally deal with hearing the 75 Pound song over and over again. 

You might even catch me singing it myself..."Seventy-five pounds, he is seventy-five pounds!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day Family Planning Meeting -- A Present in Itself

My husband, Mark, asked Hannah to take notes during our family meeting this morning.  We have family meetings all the time as a way to handle issues or get organized and headed the same direction.  This one was special because the kids had planned to do a big Spring clean for Mother's Day.  Basically, at the end of the meeting he wanted there to be a list of jobs and assignments.  

These meetings take forever in our house for obvious reasons.  We spend more time exiting the freeway onto some tangent and getting back on track more than we actually stay on track.  They are, however, terribly entertaining.

The kids heard Mark asked Hannah to take notes and they all scattered to get notebooks.  Hannah is our one non-ADHD child, he wanted a comprehensive check list everyone could follow.  He tried to stop everyone before they got too far off track.  It wasn't working.  Seeing as they were already coming back with notebooks in hand, I thought this might be a fun experiment.  Let them all take notes, then we'll compare them, and see what information each child actually took in.

Mark got the meeting started again, "Okay,"  The heads went down, pencils to paper, they were ready and writing, "okay" was recorded.  I chuckled.   This was going to be interesting.  Lists and divisions of jobs were recorded.  Important instructions were recorded, "After Rachel is finished with laundry she helps Jaren with his quest for power."  I don't remember that but more than one person recorded it so it must have been said.

Mariah took a great deal of liberties with her list.  It was clearly a soapbox moment more than a checklist of jobs.  Most of it -- even the actual list of instructions -- are wrong.

NOTES for family meeting 5.6.2011

*Delilah  likes pistachios (one of our little dogs)
Team Leaders
Fernando, Rachel, Mariah (that's me!) 
Hannah- clean and organize bathroom
*Rachel is not found a adequate candidate for team captain by many of her siblings.
Rachel would have been shot by a firing squad and does not take this meeting seriously.
Watch for her grabbing clubs with spikes and ointment - red flag
She, Rachel, did not text back and fancies me a rear end
She, Rachel, is negative about the outcome of this meeting
She reminisces about corn dog princess and burrito man
Daddy is thinking
Hunter is paired with Fernando
Rachel, just --nevermind
The counter is the bane of his (daddy's) existence
Rachel enjoys placing blame on others.  She is the butt of our jokes.
Funeral potatoes
Mary Margaret has the girls bathroom.  She is not on a team.
Daddy places blame with out basis in fact.
...I am the Alpha and Omega
We are giving Mum a clean house for Mother'sDay
Rachel is the on-call paramedic and in-charge... conditionally 
Jaren is our team leader and the power is going to his head and coming out his ears
After Rachel is done with laundry she helps Jaren with his quest for power and glory

It was a fun meeting, a great present, and a wonderful Mother's Day.

Monday, May 9, 2011

On a Scale of One to Five, Definitely a Five

Thank you, Shonda Schilling, for your wonderful book about your experience raising your son!  In her book, The Best Kind of Different, one of the techniques she uses to teach appropriate levels of reaction to situations by rating situations and the appropriate reactions on a scale of one to five.  One being a casual almost non-reaction, five being an justifiably upset reaction to a serious situation.

This was similar to a system we used with our daughter.  It wasn't to help her judge where her reactions should lie to circumstances.  It was to help her recognize when she was heading towards a meltdown or explosion from over stimulus.  To teach her how to recognize when and how to get help.

When I first read about this system that the Schillings use I thought immediately about how to introduce it and use it.

Opportunity never seems to fail to knock on my door.  We were at the grocery store the other day and my son had to pick a drink for the ride home.  He was genuinely overwhelmed by the choice.  He was starting to get quite emotional, trying desperately to hold it together.

Walking the aisles with me and changing his mind back and forth, he was starting to loose it.  You would have thought, by his emotional reaction, that he was asked to choose which sibling to save in a life or death situation.  Gatorade or Powerade was proving traumatic.

I answered the door and let opportunity in.  I explained the scale and how to use it.  There we were, in the middle of Winn Co., having a pretty honest discussion about where choosing a drink might fall on the scale. I was thinking a one for sure, maybe even a zero.  My son, thought otherwise and  gave me the most profound and insightful answer.

Trying to hold back tears and keep composure he said,  "I can't tell!  In my brain everything seems like more than a FIVE."

I can see that life for him is like getting pelted by fives. I can see it in the stress and intensity which he carries day in and day out.    I explained that sometimes our mind plays tricks on us that way, making everything seem larger than life, like fives.  We all, to one degree or another, have to learn how to separate ourselves enough to see objectively where our reaction to a situation should fall on the scale.

He told me flat out he couldn't do it.  I told him he was not alone.  I promised that at first we, his father and I, would show him where situations should fall on the scale and what an appropriate emotional response might be.  We would work through it together and then, eventually, he would be able to do it all on his own.  That is where my hope lies.

He found his composure.  He chose a Gatorade.

It will take time, all good tools do, time and effort.  It is not a quick fix.  If it works as well as the system we used to help his sister learn to judge her intensity and boiling point, giving her the skills to control of her temper, we are on our way to a great coping skill.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Space Dirt, Politics, and Life

Texas Dirt

Everyone else wanted Texas Jelly Beans, not J.J.  He wanted dirt, of course not just any dirt, Texas dirt.  He is our only Texas baby and when he heard that his dad was going to be in Texas he wanted some native soil. 
He got even more excited when he found out that part of his dad's Houston WorldFest Film Festival experience was going to be a tour of NASA.   They had a heart to heart about it that went a little like this.

Mark:  Space dirt?

J.J.:  Yes, daddy, if you get me some dirt at NASA then it will be space dirt.

Mark:  No, J.J., the dirt outside NASA is just dirt.  

J.J.:  No, daddy, they treat it with anti-gravity...so when I lick it I will float!

Me:  Maybe we need to work a little more on science. He assured me he was just being silly, that he did realize that licking NASA dirt would not give him super powers and allow him to defy gravity.

Politics, Don't Even Get Me Started

J.J. is ten.  He is, however not the average ten year old.  He cracks us up regularly with his observations.  The other day he was going off on a state politician.   He started complaining about this politician, called him by name and with exasperation said, "Ba-ad."  He went on to say, "I usually don't like to talk about politics but..."  He had quite a rant going and some very good arguments.

Later in the day he was with his dad when it came up again.  He interrupted, "Politics, don't even get me started."

Nothing to Fear 

We went out the other night, my husband and I.  We try to do that regularly, with 7 kids in the house we need it.  Because have older kids it is easier than it used to be.  Most of the time we only get "emergency" phone calls for the first 20 or 30 minutes of our date, then after we clarify that emergencies have requirements like bleeding or fire, it all quiets down.  But, boy there are always stories when we get home.

This last one cracked me up.  Hannah was coming out of her room when she was jumped by the two younger boys in a panic.  They had gone to bed earlier so it was a bit of a surprise.  Okay, it shouldn't have been -- they never stay in bed at first.

They were freaking out.  Rattling on and on, she finally got the gist of what was scaring them so badly.  They said they had been watching an imaginary scary movie in imaginary land and it had done a number on them.

Yep, not real movie...an imaginary movie, in an imaginary movie theater, in an imaginary land all combined to make some seriously real fear. 


He was trying to make an argument for the largest ice cream available at Superior Dairy Creamery.

We had spent the morning at a service project and after we made a detour to get some ice cream.   This particular place has a special kind of warped perception of what a scoop is, this one happens to be 7 scoops. 

His argument went a little like this, "I can eat it all myself, I'm 71.4 pounds, I need the calories!"

His eyes were seriously bigger than his stomach.  We did what any caring parent would do and helped him out.