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, July 7, 2012

The Magical Drawing Fairy is Real

She didn't know I was watching, but when I heard her appeal I couldn't bear it, I had to peak around the corner of the laundry room into the kitchen.  There was little 4 year old Hannah gripping her pencil with both hands, eyes squeezed shut, "Oh magical drawing fairy, please touch my pencil so I can draw like my sisters."  Clearly the magical drawing fairy couldn't resist her cuteness anymore than the rest of us because Hannah has grown up to be an incredible and talented young artist.

I talk a lot on the blog about ADHD/ADD and the many other co-occurring conditions that rule our house and often our lives. I try and make sure that us non-ADHD/ADDers, Hannah and I, are also represented.  That we're honest about our struggle to keep up and how easy it is for us to be overrun.  Overrun by the energy, the talent, the wit, the speed of their thoughts, sometimes by the dysfunction.  Hannah was truly blessed with a quiet laid back spirit, one that God must have known she would need to survive in this fast paced kinetic environment. 

Hannah inside the red bin - rolling with it
And she has done more than survive.  While the world has swirled around her Hannah has quietly gone about her business reading, drawing, baking, being Hannah.  At first, I think she hid comfortably in the huge shadows of her siblings.  She is very shy by comparison and it was easy to shrink in light of their commanding presence.  In fact, she was able to use that quiet ability to hide to her benefit often getting out of household chores.  All the obvious ones would be getting all the re-directing and we would be almost done with a project before I realized that Hannah was off reading or drawing.

As she started to get older she started to feel the need to for a little of that light.  Pushing out of those shadows still seemed like an impossible task.  Now, her two older sisters have graduated and gone from the high school scene.  We moved, so as a junior, she started a new school with no lingering big sister shadows to claw out of.  But Hannah is still Hannah and started school year silently, not letting anyone know what she is capable of, she waited for them to recognize her for themselves.

They did.  For the first time she has been eking her way into center stage, partially because she is ready for it and partially because she has had some wonderful teachers this year who saw her, the real her, despite her attempts to quietly hide.  These teachers were willing to give her a good hard shove out of the shadows.

Hannah as a PA
Her English teacher, Mrs. Schrader, dragged her into drama - working lighting and sound for the fall play.  She probably didn't know that Hannah loves to work behind the scenes and had worked as a PA (production assistant) for multiple short films and a feature film, Finding Hope Now. Later in the year she asked her to read an essay she wrote as an assignment for the Lions Club contest. She did it!  She said she thought she was going to crumble she was shaking so hard; but, she did it.

Her yearbook teacher, Mrs. Kirchman, took Hannah to a special Adobe workshop.  She swears that Hannah was born with a mouse in her hand - she has a gift for lay out and design.  Of course, Hannah came into yearbook with an advantage - a father that works on Adobe products all day and has had the kids working on them since they were young. Why use Paint when you can use Photoshop? Hannah was named co-editor of the yearbook for next year.

Her art teacher, Ms. Caudle, didn't ask Hannah if she wanted to put art into art competitions but rather demanded it.  Ms Caudle also taught Hannah at her own level, didn't just make her follow what the other kids in the class were working on.  She encouraged her to prepare for Portfolio Days at Cal Arts (California Institute of the Arts, founded by Walt Disney) next year, to enter art work in the Fair in the fall, and gave her the forms to apply for the California State Summer School for the Arts

This is where this story really begins because Hannah did apply.  She filled out the forms, followed the directions, which included submitting three pieces of original art work to meet certain requirements, and nervously waited to hear if she passed the test.  She was accepted.  Accepted to spend this summer on the the Cal Arts campus studying art from some of the best.  Cal Arts has produced some of names in the industry everyone recognizes including John Lassiter (co-founder of Pixar), Tim Burton, Brad Bird (director of The Iron Giant and The Incredibles), and many other great artists.  The program is intense - with classes running all day and into the evening six days a week for four weeks. Sundays are field trip days for both fun and education - Disneyland and the Getty Museum were on the list.

As a family we sat and read through all the materials. We started with the special acceptance letter that explained the honor of being accepted - less than half of those who apply are accepted into the program.  It also addressed the enrollment fees, which is about $1,750 before spending money, field trips, and living expenses.  It explained that Hannah was lucky enough to receive a $1,000 scholarship to defray the cost.  We laughed over the student handbook - what to bring, what not to bring, the rules, what was acceptable and a lot of what is not acceptable.  We got a big kick out of the rules about wearing shoes and shirts to the cafeteria or NO food and open flames - there an incredible number of references to NO open flames, candles, incense - clearly they know their crowd.

We decided it was definitely a rule book for artists written by artists.  At first we thought of how peaceful it might be for Hannah to get away from all the chaos that makes our house home. Then we realized.  She may be going out of the frying pan into the fire.  The ratio of non- ADHDers to ADHDers is probably pretty close to that of our house.  We know she can roll with it regardless.

What an adventure - four weeks away from home.  What an opportunity for growth - she told me privately that she was a little nervous.  She knows that it's was time to stop being the quiet observer.  She knows that there she needs to not be satisfied to sit and do her thing, waiting to see if someone will recognize her talent, motivation, and focus while the world swirled around her.  She knows it's was time to be bold, take a deep breath, and step into the spotlight. 

* Unfortunately, we have had a very hard year financially this year and while we have come up with part of what we need to send her and grandparents have helped with part we are still falling short and time is running out - she reports July 14th.  We need help coming up with the rest of the money needed to send her.  For those who would like to help Hannah get to CSSSA here is a link  http://thatsjustnotnormal.com/

You can also view her digital sketch book, including some of the work that got her accepted into the program on that site
all those who donate will receive a signed, limited edition print of her final gallery art piece from the program as show of appreciation. 

You can also follow her blog and keep track of what she is doing while she is at CSSSA at thatsjustnotnormal.blogspot.com 
**  I first talked about Hannah's artistic talents in a couple of post called ADHD and Creativity: Part I and ADHD and Creativity: Part II.  All of our children are creative and artistic in multiple ways.  In fact, I often say that we are masochistically creative, creative to the point that we are a danger to ourselves.  Hannah is the only one of our 7 children who is not ADHD/ADD.  The posts were about how ADHD effects the creative process, the differences I see between her creative process and theirs.  There is more of her art work in those posts.

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