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, December 24, 2012

Our ADHD Holiday ADDventures

We are no strangers to adventures in holiday life - I have way to many stories - some charming and humorous, some terrifying, honestly, most are both.  It's just what you juggle when you juggle disorders like ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), anxiety, OCD, Aspergers, Autism, and many more.  Where "normal" families surely have bumps in their holiday road (I like to think they do anyways) navigating the special needs holiday highway can be a crazy obstacle course of road blocks and pot holes.

In case you're feeling like you're alone in having to juggle the holidays like exquisitely sharpened knives I thought I would share some of our families holiday adventures and mishaps

 I Saw Rachel Pantsing Santa Clause

Call it excitement, anticipation combined with impulsiveness.  Call it what ever you want to - I just remember sitting at a table with a bunch of other parents watching our adorable kids huddle around Santa, hankering for the candy he was passing out.  There was my daughter, about 8 years old at the time 9she's an adult now), impatiently tugging on his pants trying to get his attention. There was Santa, with his red furry pants around his ankles.  The parents were in an uproar, some racing to tell Santa - who had no clue he was flashing the entire Christmas Party.  Some literally rolling on the floor laughing.  Me, I was completely in shock - did that really just happen?

Twas the Night Before Christmas

One of our earliest holiday traditions seem to revolve around Christmas Eve.  Anticipation of the mornings stocking and present excitement building, cookies and milk set out, all the kids tucked safely in, surely it was time for mom and dad to relax a bit while everyone drifted off to sleep so the evenings real work could begin.  Magical, until, like clockwork, one children would wake up vomiting. Yep, we have an anxiety vomiter and Christmas Eve made her anxious.
Finally, one year, she cued us in on why we had established such a terrible Christmas tradition. When we were trying to get her calmed down she stammered out a question,"Why can't Santa leave the presents on the doorstep like the Easter Bunny?"

As she's gotten older she's expounded on her fear- she told us, 'think about it - an old man, who lives forever, who knows what you've been thinking, your deepest desires, who watches your every move, good or bad and sees you when you're sleeping and knows when you're awake.  He waits until you're asleep then sneaks into your house, eats food, and leaves presents. Creepy."

It was NOT okay with her.  I never would have guessed that in a million years.  The magic of Santa had never translated into danger for me. We didn't change our tradition of finding the presents under the tree or stockings full of small surprises but we did address her fears and figured out ways for her to feel safe.  Over the years she found enough peace to ditch her nasty Christmas Eve tradition - one we were all happy to see go. She loves the season she still is no fan of Santa. Lucky for her Santa loves her anyways.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

A couple of years ago our oldest daughter was at the mall with our youngest son.  She thought she would do something special and sentimental with him so she offered to wait in line with him to see Santa Claus. He looked at her with skeptical eyes, "You want me to go sit on a strangers lap and reveal my deepest desires? Uh...NO thank you, that's not fun, that's creepy."

The Little Drummer Boy (Our not so little anymore flute girl)

Our daughter has played the flute since she was 7.  We got her started because she was such a little stress and anxiety ball and needed an outlet.  She's has always been gifted at it, had nearly perfect tone, and almost never hits the wrong notes.  Why?  She's has auditory defensiveness/sensitivity and hears wrong notes so intensely they drive her crazy.  She has a hard time enjoying music, though she loves it, writes it, breathes it like it was air to her, because she can't help but hear any missed variation.

Recently we were at a beautiful Christmas concert.  They had a flutist who had a very unnatural vibrato to everything she played.  Years ago our daughter would have loudly complained about it.  Everyone around us would have had a lecture on vibrato, and known exactly how violent this ladies was making our daughter.  We've found that progress in social skills and every other coping mechanism with our kids comes very slowly, sometimes it's down right imperceptible but then you wake up one day and all those little bits of progress have added up to something remarkable. 

She still complained, expressed her deep desire to run up to the stage, rip the flute out of the ladies hands and beat her with it. BUT, she didn't flee the building, huff and puff for everyone to see her disgust, and she whispered it.

"The Fire is so Delightful"

Our latest fascination it a video the kids stumbled onto while searching for Prep and Landing on Netflix.  It's a video of wood burning in the fireplace.  First of all, we have a fireplace to burn wood in but this has tripped every ADHD wire in their ADHD brains and they are fixated with it.  They keep joking about the special effects and fine quality of the video.  They were ecstatic to find out there was two episode and are eagerly awaiting a sequel.  They wanted to move the TV in front of the real fireplace just to watch the video, to buy a 100 inch TV so they could see it even bigger on the wall.  They run up and warm their hand in front of it, my son rips his shirt off because it's getting so hot, and they yell at each other for walking in front of the screen and obscuring the view.  Who knew a recorded fire could bring so much entertainment and fun, I didn't.

Hark, the Herald Angels Weep

My husband leaned over to me in church yesterday and said, "Do you think my plan for the tree topper angel is sacrilegious?" I honestly had to think about it for a minute or two.  I really don't hink of the Christmas tree is a very religious symbol of Christmas.  I know that their are all kind of explanations of how it represents different facets of faith but really I think those explanations  but personally I think the tree is a great decoration for the season and part of magical tradion and that's about it.

Qualifier, our kids are NOT very little anymore, our youngest is 12 in a couple weeks.  Fact, everyone in our house loves Dr. Who.  Add to this mix the fact that my husband has a deep seeded distaste for our Christmas Tree topper angel. Add to the old tree topper angel some serious ADHD, some creative genus, some impulsivity, some Modpodge, some spray paint, and you have a weeping angel Cristmas Tree topper.
That's right, by tonight our new and improved weeping angel Christmas tree topper will be staring down from the top of the Christmas tree.  I leaned over to him and whispered back, "No, I don't think it's sacrilegious at all."

Holidays can be hard: uncomfortable clothes, overstimulating events, social skills war zone, organizational hell, too many demands coming from too many directions.  But in the midst of it all we have learned to compromise, teach, ditch the demands, and find what works for our family.  It's not perfect but it's our holiday, our traditions, and we love it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dear Adam Levine, Thank You for Owning Your ADHD

We gathered as a family to watch the end of The Voice the other night.  But in my opinion the most important moment didn't come when all the superstars sang, or when they handed out keys to new cars for the finalist or even when they announced the winner.

As the mom to 6 ADHD kids (7 kids in all) and wife to an ADHD husband the most pivotal moment of the evening came as they played a video of Adam Levine playing the piano, the drums, the guitar, whistling, talked about him playing the accordion, and showed him singing.

In that moment one of my kids reminded everyone that Adam Levine had ADHD too. There was a level of pride filling the room.  "He's just like us." one said.  Another added, "you know it's because of his ADHD that he has to play all those instruments, that he's good at all of them!"  They know that drive, the unquenchable force that pushes you past distraction, past focus, and lands you on the positive side of hyper-focus.

and drums, basses, electric guitars & flutes
The excitement, the acceptance, the hope in that moment was tangible.

There are many successful ADHD people out there, more and more of them are coming forth and owning their ADHD.  I wonder if they will ever know the impact they have on the upcoming generation of kids with ADHD.  Those kids and struggling adults can find they have potential in the success of another person.  To struggle through school, through feeling different and awkward, through trying to master coping mechanisms, and find a way to use all this energy and potential seeing someone's success is a beacon, it's proof it can be done. Instead of just seeing all the things they aren't, they catch a glimmer of all they can be.

Every successful person who comes forth and owns their ADHD is important in the life of others who struggle with the same issues no matter what walk of life their success is in.  Adam Levine hits home in my house because he's creative.  Creative is what we do, art, music, singing, acting, writing, film, animation to see a successful person with ADHD inspires them towards their own greatness.

Stigma, shame, embarrassment, the threat of being judged by negative stereotypes for admitting your ADHD are real. The world would have us hide anything that is different or imperfect.  Ironically, the only way to change those negative stereotypes is to take that risk, to face that fear, and be bold about our disorders in front of the world until those walls are broken down.  Then, fear, stigma, shame,embarrassment, negative stereotypes can be replaced by knowledge and understanding.

There is no doubt that ADHD is a mixed bag.  There are struggles, endless struggles; but, there is greatness also.  Thank you Adam Levine for being willing to show both sides to the world.  Thank you to all successful people who stand up and own it.

*If you like it please SHARE it

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tonight - Reflections on a Day of Tragedy

Tonight I'm sitting in my living room, firing blazing in the fireplace, kids bickering, watching movies, drawing, telling stories, complaining, laughing, being.

Tonight I am soaking them in.

Tonight I'm praying for the families who's hearts and homes have been torn apart by a truly senseless act of violence. I'm wishing, like the rest of the country and world, that there was some way to make sense of the senseless.  I'm wishing that there was some way to legislate this away so it would never happen again.  Even though I know that there is no sense to be made of it.  Even though I know that legislation may make it better but what is broken here was beyond the reach of laws.

Tonight I am thinking back on the day and my own list of what should have happened before and after, soothing my own sense of wanting to control the aspects of life we have no control over.  Furious that my son's teacher played the news feed in his classroom in high school. I understand her need to know, to be connected to it.  But, I also know she wasn't thinking of the students in her classroom.  How they would feel.  What they would think.  If they were going home to families equipped help them process this terrible event or if she was sending them home where no one will be there to help them. 

Tonight I am reliving my own conversation with my own children when they came home from school - figuring out what information they had been given, what they thought and felt, what they were worried about.  Reassuring them that even if they didn't want to talk then they could come when ever they did want to talk.  Telling them that we would not be watching the news about it on TV but if they wanted more information we would look it up.  I didn't watch long, after my husband called and told me what had happened.  I couldn't, still can't get the pictures of the day out of my head.  Forever the sight of the flag being lowered to half mast will reside next to it being raised at the 9-11 site.  Tragic.  Tragic for the families, tragic for our American family, our world family.

Tonight I'm looking for a way to restore our families sense of safety and control over their world. I was talking to my daughter who did come to me privately, crying, she told me of the thoughts plaguing her.  How she couldn't stop thinking about the Christmas presents those parents had bought for their babies, those precious children. Those presents that would never be opened.  We cried together.  I told her there are so many things in this world that we can't control and when things like this happen sometimes it feels like we have no control.  I reminded her that there are many things we do control, can control.  She told me about a class project they did today making cards for a young man with cystic fibrosis reach a goal to get into the Book of World records. Something we can do, a way we can serve, a great way to exercise the control we do have in this way. Later I will deal with the school and live news feeds in the classroom.  Tonight, I am thinking of opportunities we have to serve tomorrow and the chance my family has to see that they can make a positive difference in peoples' lives, the control they can exercise.

Tonight the importance of spreading mental health awareness is central in my thoughts.  I wonder what signs were missed, what help could have been given, what could have been different for the young man who ripped the lives from these innocent children and adults.  I wonder what if mental illness wasn't such a mystery to the general public. What if there wasn't so much stigma and shame associated with this type of illness.  What if there were easily accessible resource for those suffering from mental health issues and their families.  We want to control the uncontrollable and there is so much we can't control but we can do better.  Certainly awareness, education, help is something we can do better at.

Tonight I will give hugs and kisses, listen to prayers for safety, for comfort for those that are hurting, for love and peace.  Tonight I will say a few myself.

* When the shootings in Aurora took place we did a blog on handling crisis with special needs family members 1156 Miles to Aurora - Dealing with Crisis and ADHD

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Color Purple - An ADHD Homework Nightmare

He emptied his backpack onto the living room floor.  It was like Mary Poppins' carpetbag or clowns coming out of a tiny circus car. I still don't know how he fit it all in his backpack to begin with but after he started pulling things out I had no question why he couldn't find the purple piece of paper that was the last and final part of his Service Learning Project Board.

For my two youngest sons, this is their first year back in public school after five years of home school. 
There certainly have been some major adjustments, homework being at the top of the list. To this day one of my favorite things about the home school years was no homework. No homework to keep track of. No makeup work after illness. No homework to agonize over when the meds have worn off and the brain just isn't functioning. No homework to lose.

Keeping track of homework, remembering to do it, doing it, remembering to turn it in are all hallmark problems for ADHD kids (and for adults though it wouldn't necessarily be called homework it would more likely translate into work assignments or projects).

My son's backpack is probably the stereotypical ADHD backpack. Looking at it I, myself, had to wonder how on earth the child is getting good grades and turning anything in on time.

It's simple: his absolute obsession and fear of disappointing a teacher overrides his absolute lack of organization. His anxiety level is intense, it's one of the reasons why we went to home school right before the 4th grade when the class size and intensity of curriculum were both going to take a big jump up. Nightly he paces the halls and worries that he didn't write something down in his planner, no matter how many times he reviews it. Clearly, organization is a coping skill we are working on but haven't come close to mastering.

This project board about sent him over the edge. Projects with lots of pieces and parts are also notoriously difficult for ADHDers. He had arranged to do the 10 hours of service at our local library, as an avid reader this was a magical place to serve. He had written all the parts of the project up, printed out the blurbs and pictures to glue onto the project board which he had painstakingly decorated like a huge bookshelf.  All he had left was the purple paper.

For days I had suggested talking to his teacher. His response, "I can't. I truly fear that woman." I reassured him as best I could, but, her strong PE teacher personality had him shaking in his boots. I've talked to her several times, truth is she loves him as a student, gets a kick out of his unique personality and intensity. But he still wouldn't talk to her. He was convinced that she didn't have any more of the precious purple papers, not one. Sure that he was going to fail the entire project without that purple piece of paper he turned to any alternative he could come up with.

He was going to talk to the girl he was supposed to do the project with, who bailed at the last minute, she might have one. She wasn't using hers, he explained, she's failing the class anyway so she didn't do the project or the board. I questioned whether someone who was that disconnected would have the purple paper. "Good point," he said, "good point."

At my request, he braved the backpack and went through it one paper at a time looking for the purple paper. I tried to edge in a little organizational time by having him sort everything into piles, one for each class. That didn't work, though he did find half of a white copy of the purple piece of paper. Clearly, it wouldn't do, he argues. In addition to being ripped, it was not purple.

He came up with a plan, he was trying to enlist the help of his oldest sister to "forge" the purple paper. She could do the forgery on the computer and then we could go to the store and find the right color purple paper and print it out.  How is this easier than asking for a new one? It's not, but, he reiterated that he really really fears that woman, so in his mind, it was safer.

Board completed. Minus the purple paper, having never found the original. No copy to take from a fellow student. Forgery vetoed by mom and dad. He took the project board to school to turn it in. He was going to have to brave his teacher and ask for a new one to glue on the board.

When he got home from school I asked how it all turned out.

"Oh," he exclaimed cheerfully, "the purple piece of paper didn't have to be on the board."

For your entertainment I have written down some of the fake book titles that my son put on his project board. He and his sister, the one he was trying to rope into a life of crime as a forger, had a great time coming up with them. It was late and the meds had definitely worn off (for both of them).

Sometimes I Eat Paper Clips - Overcoming PICA

Prunes and Prejudice

Fish - A Complete History

101 Ways to Slay a Clown

Mayonnaise is NOT Marshmallow Cream

Tapping Into Your Inner Dolphin

The Super Guide to Malaga and Beyond

How to be a Lumberjack - Sleep All Night - Work All Day

They Call Me The Rabbit Whisperer

Coping with Alien Abduction and Probing

So You Want to be a Llama Herder

Thank Goodness This is the Last Book by Ima Exhausted

and the banned book: 10 Reasons NOT to Get a Colonoscopy