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, 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!