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!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vacuum Tube Transportation and Other Strokes of Genius

I have to admit, the older the kids get, the more responsible they are for getting their own medication in the morning, the harder time I have managing when they are getting close to running out.  Then, I'm in a rush to call the doctor's office for refill prescriptions, get them to pharmacy, and get refills before they run out.  So, more and more I end up in the drive through line at the pharmacy with one or more of my kids.  They're there because they are completely unmedicated.  Best bet is to take them with me.

Interestingly enough, my 13 year old son was talking about the experience of being unmedicated as we were on our way to pick up the medication.  He said he kind of enjoys being with out medication at first - there's a sort of freedom to his thoughts.  He indicated that at first that is a fun feeling - ideas bouncing around in his brain like a hand full of bouncy balls that have been thrown down really hard on the ground.  A sense that he's carried by his brain - having no control over where it will take him.

But, he added quickly, there's a relief when he takes his meds.  A sense that control is on the way, that soon he'll be able to manage the thoughts running through his mind.  He'll at least have some control over what he thinks about and where it will take him.  What an odd paradox - the freedom feels good but uncontrollable and therefore a little scary.  The control from the medication feels safe but somewhat restrictive.

We were still very much in the "freedom of thought" state when we pulled up to the pharmacy's drive through lane - the one with the vacuum tube that sucks your payment and paper prescriptions up a tube and deposits them in the pharmacy and then sends the medications back the same way.  I thought my boys were going to have an aneurism they were so excited.

They wanted to jump out of the car and into the tube themselves. They wanted to take it apart.  They wanted to know all about how it worked.  They wanted to make a super large one that ran from our house to their father's work and stick him in it every morning to send him off.  Dad's 6 foot 3 - he is a big guy.  This was an amazing visual that they could not resist.  Can you imagine, they mused, somebody's standing at work and wooosh, "Hey, it's Mark.  Mark's here!"  The sound effects and scenarios filled the car.

But what if he got stuck?  Easy, all they needed was a gigantic plunger or maybe a bunch of gigantic plungers.  A hatch would open, the gigantic plunging system would fall into place and plunge until daddy was successfully dislodged and sailing through the vacuum tube once more.  I was slightly disturbed - they were in heaven.

My next stop was to take my husband his lunch and medication, since he is equally as bad at telling me when he's close to out of meds, great at telling me when he has taken his last day.  As he walked up to meet us at the car the boys couldn't contain their excitement - they were talking over each other explaining design and functionality of vacuum tube travel.  The sound effects were flying like bullets in a war zone.

What did Mark have to say about all this, "Hmmm, what if you got positioned in the tube wrong.  You could get a really horrible wedgie."  Well, that was an unexpected answer.  The boys loved it.  Jaren pointed out that they were not going to stick him in the tube directly - he would be in a pod of sorts, sailing through the tube underground.  No atomic vacuum tube wedgies.  Mark was not happy about traveling underground.  He was totally up for vacuum tube travel as long as he could be up high, have a sense he was flying, and a great view. 

I passed out the meds and bottled water.

It was time for a little thought management.  Freedom of thought is not bad thing.  Most of the time it's amusing and certainly adds a lot of humor into our lives.  I am sure that many of the world's greatest creations have come from moments just like ours when one thought sparked another until something totally new and revolutionary came to mind and then into existence.

One thing that all of my ADHD/ADDers have pointed out is that medication does not take away their creativity and, believe me, they are an intensely creative group.  The minds in our house are full of art to draw, music to compose, inventions to build, films to make, and novels to write.  Medication allows them to aim their creativity, to follow through with their thoughts.  It allows them to take a concept, have the wherewithal  to take out of their mind, and create it in the real world.  Not without struggle, but it opens up the potential and makes success plausable.

This same son, Hunter, who was talking about his love hate relationship with medication pointed out that one of the hardest aspects of ADHD and its co-occurring conditions is to have such great thoughts.  So many thoughts that completing any of them is a struggle.  One great thought knocks the other out of the spot light, then that one is knocked by another in never ending bombardment of great ideas. The medication gives him the concentration and focus to further that cascade of brilliance and carefully direct it towards a fabulous end.

Does that mean that those that can't take medication or choose to not take medication are doomed.  No.  We have a daughter who has recently gone off stimulants.  They aggravated her anxiety, impulsiveness, and some other ADHD qualities to that point where what she gained in focus was nothing compared to what she lost to these other symptoms.  She would be the first to tell you how hard it has become to direct those brilliant creative thoughts into tangible completed work.  She's having to master her brain without the benefit of a stimulant and it is exhausting.  It easily one hundred times as hard, but, definitely doable.  Especially, since she is aware of the battle that's raging.  Trust me when I say she has a lot of, "lost the battle but will still win the war" days.

We are still laughing about my big husband, Mark, sailing through the vacuum transportation tube with a wedgie, on his way to work, hoping to avoid getting stuck in the tube, and having to be plunged to continue on his way.  We will be for a long time.  It's not likely that this particular idea is going to be the one we see to completion - I'm not so sure it should be.  But there are many more where that came from, in my house and in houses around the world where these brilliant brains reside.

These are the brains that given the right support, encouragement, and tools will change the world.  They will change the way we see it, feel about it, and interact with it.  The trick for us as parents, teachers, and caretakers of this unlimited amazing potential is to remember the possibilities, continue to encourage, and direct even when we are exhausted from being up all night because that child has insomnia. Even when your teenage daughter is torturing the cub scouts because she's frustrated and over stimulated.  Even when your brilliant child is in danger of failing because they haven't turned in one homework assignment all semester and no one told you until it was almost too late to fix.

The trick is to remember and hold onto the knowledge that they are brilliant because of their unique BRAINS not in spite of them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My 3 ADHD Sons - Do the Laudromat

I wasn't totally taken by surprise when the washer finally died, spewing water everywhere.  It had certainly given all the signs of giving up and really what washer wouldn't .  The demands of washing clothes for a household of 9 is certainly taxing.  It's demise, however, left me in a world of hurt and with the very unwanted trip to the laundromat. We rounded up endless baskets of laundry, packed them in the back of our 15 passenger van, and headed out to do our duty.  We consisted of my oldest daughter, now 20, and my 3 sons, Fernando (who is 18), Hunter (13) and Jaren (11).  Hunter and Jaren both home school still and we decided to make this a field trip day.  As it turned out there were many lessons learned.

The boys had taken special care to load up all their clothes.  When we got to the laundromat they even put them into one big washer with a window.  They felt on top of the world as far as efficiency went.  I didn't get too picky about sorting colors and lights.  I figured getting all the dirty clothes in baskets that made it all the way to the laundromat and into a washer with soap and water was a pretty big accomplishment. They were proud and I was proud of them.

It didn't take too long, however, to figure out that something was amiss in the boys' washer.  One of them noticed a loud rhythmic thunking noise.  Another thought he saw something randomly hitting the big window that allowed you to peer into the washer as your load swished round and round.  They were transfixed.  What was it?  Who had left it in a pocket?  Was it ruined or ruining other items?  It was almost too much to bear.  They positioned themselves around the washer to try and catch a glimpse of the mysterious item.

They couldn't resist, it had to be debated.

Son #1 insisted that he had carefully checked ALL his pockets to make sure that nothing was ruined in the wash.  He understood the danger, he had washed more than one valuable and had learned his lesson.

Son # 2 pointed out that he doesn't need to put things in his pockets, he has a spy briefcase to hold his gadgets.  And he owns more than one messenger bag where he stores his pocket watches, rocks of great importance, keys, papers, mole skin notebooks, pens, books on ancient colloquial Chinese, and other items that one might store in their pockets.  He was simply too organized to have whatever it was banging around the washer be his.

It sounded like a rock, a pretty good sized one - looked like it might be grey.

Son # 3 had a totally different approach - and I quote, "It couldn't be something from my pocket because you know I only wear one pair of pants and I'm wearing them now, so it didn't come from my pocket." I only admit this so very publicly because I know I don't have the only child who is so emphatically obsessively attached to wearing one piece of clothing that getting them to change is like reversing the course of the Mississippi River.

It went on and on and then my two younger sons got bored watching the washer and started making the tiled floor into a life sized game board.  It cooperated nicely with random mixed colored squares breaking up the otherwise white floor.  Making up rules, arguing over what kind of game piece they were, counting out paces and spaces, moving forward, and getting sent back to square one.  The inventive nature of ADHD never ceases to amaze me - they can literally create an alternate reality, immerse themselves in it, and disappear in what seems like milliseconds to me.  Boring and ADHD don't mix well it begs the brain to set the imagination free.  Waiting is boring.

Son # 1 was hanging in there at the washer window.  It was not going to be something from his pockets.  He was well into a state of hyperfocus.  He was going to figure out what it was and prove that it was not his or maybe he was starting to worry that it could be his, either way it would not slip by him.  Alas the draw of the rolling laundry carts and an extended wash cycle proved to be too much for him.  I turned to see all three boys were lined up sitting on the folding table with their feet in rolling carts moving them forward and back - side to side.

They were saved from my "learning experience" on the appropriate use of rolling laundry baskets by buzzer as the washers finished one right after the other. Back to work we went switching one load after another to the dryers.

They say it all comes out in the wash and it certainly did.

Son #1 hadn't checked his pocket quite as accurately as he thought.  Sometimes they know when they're distracted and missing things and sometimes they just don't.  They think they are catching all the information, on top of the situation, and in control of the ADHD.  It has got to be one of the more frustrating aspects of the disorder.  Feeling you have it under control only to find out you don't.

And what was it?  He informed me it was his metal lighter.  What?  A lighter?  He knew that was a mistake the moment it left his lips - this the boy who can tell you exactly what color hand sanitizer burns on jeans because he set his jeans on fire while he was wearing them is forbidden to carry a lighter or matches.  He was quick to point out that my husband gave him permission to carry this one because there is NO fluid in it.  He set out to prove there was no fluid just a cool case to fidget with.  Harmless, definitely harmless, he pointed out. And clean of course, very clean.

We settled into the drying cycles and a new mental tangent - son #2 had take all the quarters, at least $20.00 worth, and was sorting out all the old coins and all the state coins.  Then begging me to not use any old coins or state coins so you can keep them for a new collection.  He collects pocket watches, bow ties, pennies, rocks and lots of other things of great importance.  I said no - we need those coins to get the laundry dry.  He pointed out that he would happily give up the newer coins and the duplicates.  He handed me about 8 quarters.  He begged.  Pleaded.  Insisted.  Finally he surrendered and looked at me like his whole life had come to a terribly tragic end.  Waited 30 seconds and tried again and again and again.

Have you ever noticed that the ADHD child who does not want to be redirected can stay focused forever.

All in all it took us about 3 hours at the laundromat.  It amazed me how in those 3 hours we covered so many characteristics of ADHD and the co-occurring conditions that run through the halls of our house.  Distraction, frustration, inability to admit that you're wrong, imagination, inability to wait, hatred of boredom, obsessions, inflexibility, hyper focus, alternate realities, impulsiveness.  One thing you can say about us - we are who we are wherever we are.  Sometimes we are in better control of all of it than others, but that's okay we are learning and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

We folded, loaded the baskets, and packed it back in the van.

* a special thanks to Rachel who humored me and sneakily took pictures every time I motioned for her to