on getting your groove back

Hey guys. Every once in a while we lose track of who we are. The days become an endless series of moments in time just to get through, and, simply put, we lose our groove. I lost my groove, y’all. I don’t think it does me or you any good not to call this what it is. I wasn’t off “brainstorming great new ideas!” or “undergoing an invigorating transformation!” I was just scraping by, to put it simply. I went to bed tired. I woke up tired. I made meals and did (ok, mostly avoided) laundry in a fog, like my arms were fifty pound weights. I’m out of the fog now, but I don’t have shame recalling it. If you have found yourself in a similar place, or if you’re in one right now, you may wonder how to dig yourself out. How to reclaim your groove, so to speak.

Here’s the deal, though: I don’t know how your groove thrives. I don’t know what exactly feeds your soul or brings you back to joy. So I’ll offer my experiences, but they may not work for you. Of course, there’s a chance they might – so read on, will you?

Jennie2018
Also, IMPORTANT: never underestimate the power of a good selfie.

Embrace a New Hobby

Even in the thick of it, when I was overwhelmed at the thought of washing a dish, I fell into auditions and voice lessons. This is my non-mom thing. You may or may not know that once upon a time I was a choir teacher. I studied voice, I led singers, I put on shows. That feels like a different life I’m in no hurry to return to or replicate, but this kind of thing still ignites a fire I thought was put out by Thomas the Tank Engine and elementary school attitudes. Being in shows – just preparing to audition for shows – reminds me I have talent beyond cute school lunches. It’s a reminder I desperately need.

Reach Out to Friends

Yes, I’m talking to YOU, INTROVERTS! I’m not suggesting all of the introverts start going out every night and singing karaoke, but really soak up the people you have. And not just the ones you always reach out to. Open up to someone new and let them surprise you. I recommend friends of different categories; let me explain. I have mom-friends that I can text “I’M LOCKING MY KIDS IN THEIR ROOMS TODAY” and they’ll totally get it. If I text that to my non-mom friends, they might call CPS. But the non-moms remind me there are shows I should make time for and books I need to read. Allow your messages to come from different perspectives. It’s good for you.

Um… Talk to Your Doctor

Yeah, this one should maybe be first. It’s the most important, in my humble opinion. But if you read the most important thing first, you might not read the rest, and I wrote more words! What truly helped me out of the funk was a medicine switch. To get to this place, I had to do a terribly frightening thing: open up to someone I don’t really know at all and say things were not great. But hey, this is what doctors are for. They won’t think you’re a weirdo. (If they do, see a new doctor ASAP.)

No matter what, just believe this: the funk won’t last forever. It just won’t – but it won’t go away on its own, either. So go get your groove back, you majestic unicorn, you. Do NOT worry if:

  • it takes time
  • it takes work
  • you fall back into a bad day after several good ones
  • medicines don’t work
  • other people are confused

You can and will thrive; you can and will groove.

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the lies i tell myself, part 4


Full disclosure, I didn’t have a great picture for today, so here’s one of Jonah that makes me smile.

OK, it took longer than I anticipated to get these four lies out. I suppose the timeline I had in mind was just another to a long list of lies… but if you need to catch the first three, you can find them here: part 1, part 2, and part 3. Which brings us to the final lie (for now, anyway):

I am the only one who feels this way.

Now, I know we are quick to blame social media for constantly showing us glimpses of other “picture perfect” lives. And yes, to an extent, the general public *may* tend to post highs rather than lows, but here’s what I have found. When I’m feeling bad about myself and I’m scrolling through my timeline, I barely give a second glance to the posts that say “today is hard, I need a hug!” I zero in on anything that looks shiny and glittery, anything that makes someone else’s life look perfect compared to my own. But this isn’t even the trickiest thing my brain does: let’s say someone posts a picture of a a family fun day. All of the kids are smiling, everyone looks like they’re getting along, and I manifest this whole story about how this family is better at family time than I am. I read so much into one tiny image that I have suddenly put this picture on a pedestal that I can’t reach. And it doesn’t matter if this family’s very next post is about a baby who never, ever sleeps or a stress overload. I don’t see those. I only see the good.

When people tell you to see the good in other people, this isn’t what they mean.

Or it shouldn’t be.

What do we say 75% of the time when someone asks, “hey, how are you?” “Fine!” “Good!” “Great!” “Can’t Complain!” So when I ask someone how they are, if I only ever hear “good!” I think: I’m the only one who isn’t good. I’m the only one who doesn’t have a cute family picture online right now. I’m the only one who hasn’t showered in four days and has really stretched the power of dry shampoo to the max. Look. I know it isn’t easy to say “actually, everything sucks and I’m really stressed, how are you?” And, you know what? I also know that sometimes things are just good. And you should be able to tell that to people without having some sort of survivor’s guilt for being in a good place.

And so, here’s my radical proposal to stop this lie: just stop. I know. It’s easier said than done. But still —

Stop the comparison. Your life is your life, and you’re doing it better than anyone else can do your life.

Stop the fantasies. Other people don’t have the picture-perfect life you assign them in your mind. Remember everyone else is as real and raw and fragile as you are, when it comes down to it.

Stop setting impossible standards. Treat yourself kindly. Treat yourself like your own child if you have to; make goals that make sense for the person you are in the stage you’re in.

Stop trying. OK, hear me out. This one sounds like basically the opposite of most self-help advice, but here’s what I mean: stop trying to be something new all the time. Stop thinking “if I can do THIS (eat paleo, run a marathon, learn a new language, etc), THEN I’ll be good.” You’re good now. Stop trying to be “better” and start being who you are meant to be.

I’ve talked to lots of human beings, and if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s this: absolutely no one has everything figured out. You may admire certain people, and this isn’t bad on its own, but when you forget that you’re admiring qualities — portions — not a whole — that’s when you run into trouble.

This isn’t a lie that can be overturned by changing how we use social media. It isn’t a problem that can be solved by giving every simple greeting a thirty-minute therapy session on our deepest life issues. Rather, it involves looking at yourself with clear, unbiased eyes (as unbiased as possible anyway, because they’re your eyes so… just roll with me, here). Don’t let someone else’s victory equate to your own failure. Acknowledge the fact that you’re on different journeys, with different milestones, and it isn’t a competition.

But all of this isn’t even the very best way to stop this lie. All you need to do is accept the fact that it is one. Think of the most “perfect” person you know — the person you wish you could be. GUESS WHAT? They get overwhelmed. They feel inadequate. They make mistakes. EVERYONE FEELS THIS WAY — EVERY SINGLE WAY — SOMETIMES. When we compare similarities instead of differences, we find our degrees of separation are much closer than we think.

So, hey. Whatever lies you’re telling yourself? Recognize that’s what they are. If you can’t see the truth alone, talk to other people. Don’t be so afraid to show some of your mess, because other people have mess, too. They do. It doesn’t have to be the same as yours to be real.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” -John 8:32

if the news of the world is too much to bear

if the news of the world is too much to bear

If the news of the world is too much to bear,
turn it down, turn it off, take a break.
Get all of your news from the anchors at home,
Soak it up, breathe it in, come awake.

This just in: puppies still really cute.
Little kids still angelic in sleep.
Kisses fix boo-boos, hugs say hello,
children love fast and love deep.

Take it from kids, making new friends is easy.
Simply smile at someone you don’t know.
It does not even matter if you don’t catch their name
Just say “hi!” and then go with the flow.

Live from the news desk, a strange case develops:
“The case of the lone missing sock.”
We’re following leads, but they dryer’s not talking,
We have to go, so we’re fighting the clock.

In other news, moms and dads still bicker,
kids and teens still fight and whine.
But at the end of the day (or the week or the month),
everyone’s right back to “fine.”

After this break from the outside news,
return, it’s your duty to do.
And to fight for what’s right and teach your children the same,
It won’t always be easy, that’s true.

For the real world is hard, it is cold and unfair,
We don’t always find peace as we grow
But we cannot ignore it, not totally at least
It’s our job to let pure goodness show.

So let’s teach all our children that yes, life is hard —
But we know how to lighten the load.
Knowledge is power, friendliness can bring peace,
Be kind, and you’ll reap what you’ve sowed.

I don’t always know how to raise my kids now
In a world that seems so full of hate.
But I do know that hate cannot thrive on it’s own —

So we’ll love, and we’ll love, and we’ll love, and we’ll love
And we’ll love and we’ll make our own fate.

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My favorite news anchor, Jiminy Cricket.

focus, md

This is the third part in a series about ADHD, especially as it pertains to children in elementary school. For the first two parts, see here and here.

Today’s post comes to you from my husband, who also happens to be a pediatrician. He’ll share his thoughts with ADHD as both doctor and dad. He’s graciously making himself available for questions, so leave a comment if you have anything to ask him!

 

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A father, a (then) three year old, a med school anatomy textbook… the usual.

 

And now, Dr. Jason:

First, a plug for a great resource online in case you haven’t come across this yet:
HealthyChildren.org. This is a website with great articles about many common childhood concerns from healthy eating to mental health issues. It is run by the American Academy of Pediatrics. I agree with the AAP on 99% of issues (happy to discuss the other 1%) and would definitely recommend this resource to all parents.

ADHD

So you’ve got a kid with “behavior” problems. This could be caused by a large list of issues. Poor sleep, from things like undertreated allergies, snoring, etc. can cause difficulties during the day. Learning difficulties, like dyslexia, can show up as problems in the classroom. When I was in first grade I had trouble completing my daily tasks, and was almost held back a year. Turns out that I needed glasses and couldn’t read the goals/tasks written on the chalkboard.

One thing that can cause behavior problems is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Here I’ll attempt to give a brief overview of what this is and how to recognize it.

What is ADHD?

Different parts of our brain are responsible for different tasks. At the very front of your brain (just behind your forehead) is the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that is in charge of attention, impulse control and planning. In kids with ADHD, this part of the brain is underactive, relative to the rest of the brain.
If you are on your way to pick up the laundry and get a notification on your phone, your prefrontal cortex says “You need to go get the dirty clothes before you stop and do something else.” If you have ADHD, this doesn’t happen. You get distracted and stop to check your phone. You may end up spending 25 minutes checking Facebook, Instagram and Flappy Bird (apparently no longer supported on iOS 11, RIP little bird.)

In school, kids with ADHD have trouble controlling their impulses; they may get out of their seats at inappropriate times. They have trouble switching their focus and attention and have a hard time changing tasks. They may, like my son did, get up and wander around the room for 10-15 minutes aimlessly.

Symptoms of ADHD

Kids with ADHD can have a variety of symptoms, with some kids having more issues in some areas than others. Hallmark symptoms of ADHD include impulsivity, inattention and hyperactivity. There used to be two separate diagnoses: ADD and ADHD. Currently it is all called ADHD, and is divided into categories such as ADHD inattentive type, or ADHD hyperactive type.

We all have times when our prefrontal cortex is “underperforming.” This is like when you are useless in the morning until you’ve had your coffee or Diet Coke. The difference with ADHD is that this occurs on a very regular basis and interferes with daily functioning.

Treatment of ADHD

It’s counterintuitive, but hyperactive, distractible kids are often treated with stimulants. The idea is to increase the activity in that prefrontal cortex, giving them the ability to focus and control impulses when it’s needed.

There are other groups of medicines that can also be used depending on the type of symptoms the child is having and the response to routine medications. Understanding these meds, how they work and when they should be used goes beyond the basic scope of this discussion. Just be aware that your pediatrician may suggest things outside of Ritalin/Concerta/etc.

Aside from just treating with pills, there is a lot that parents/teachers can do to help kids with ADHD. Primarily, understanding what the problem is and keeping that in mind is a big first step. If your child has ADHD and you keep yelling instructions at them, thinking they just aren’t listening, you could be making their struggle worse. I try to educate parents on how to help a child with ADHD focus and get a task done. Getting the teacher involved is also important. Sometimes an IEP (individualized education plan) is needed to lay out specific plans/goals/consequences.

So when should you try medications? It’s different with every child, but as a pediatrician I always use meds when the potential benefit outweighs the potential risk. This is the case for all medical problems such as ear infections, asthma and ADHD. Some kids are picky eaters and on the low end of the growth chart, so I might be slower to start a stimulant with them, as they can cause decreased appetite. On the other end of things, I’ve seen kids who have seriously needed treatment for mental health issues that parents refused to act on because of the stigma, and my heart breaks for them. So my advice is to be willing to have the discussion with your doctor about what non-pharmacological things you can try, but be open to the use of medication if needed.

Prognosis of ADHD

When recognized and addressed early, kids with ADHD tend to do pretty well. There may be a “transition” period while you figure out what interventions/strategies/meds are right for you. As kids grow up, some of them may outgrow their symptoms or form their career/lifestyle in a way that meds aren’t needed. Some may continue to need some medications as adults.

“When I was your age…”

I have heard many people say they think ADHD is over diagnosed and over treated these days. I don’t have a solid answer for these people. Are there some kids who are having different issues who just get thrown on medications? Absolutely. Are there some kids who struggle longer than they need to because people tend to neglect mental health in children? Absolutely.

What it comes down to is finding a good pediatrician or family physician that you feel comfortable bringing your concerns to, and that spends the time investigating the issue and explaining to you what they are thinking and why.

My experience with ADHD

From a relatively young age, around 3, I noticed my son excelled at many things like language and learning. In terms of gross and fine motor development, he was average. One area he was behind in was attention and focus. This is hard to define explicitly in a 3 year old. As he entered Kindergarten, I mentioned this in passing to his teacher. He was not a “wild child” and didn’t have big issues with hyperactivity, so from a teacher standpoint it wasn’t a big issue. Same thing starting 1st grade, I had my concerns but it wasn’t affecting his daily functioning. My wife, the Premeditated Mama, was maybe starting to see what I was seeing. Then we got an email from the teacher. “Wandering” was the subject. Basically, she was concerned that he often would get distracted and be unproductive.

I TOLD YOU SO

…This is what I silently said. In reality, what I said was “Oh yeah, why don’t we look into that more.”

After getting an evaluation from his actual pediatrician, we started him on a trial of the first-line meds for ADHD, a stimulant called Concerta. I will leave it to Premeditated Mama to describe our experience once we started treatment, both meds and behavioral, for ADHD.

focus, part 2

This is the second part of a two part series. If you haven’t read part one yet, you can read that here.

 

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Once we had Boone’s diagnosis and medication in hand, he and I sat down to chat. He had complained to me about having to do school work before, so I started with that. Our conversation went something like this:

“Hey Boone, you know how  you have trouble getting your work done at school?”
“Yep.”
“It turns out you have something called ADHD. Your brain has a difficult time focusing on things. So even though you know how to do your work, it’s harder for you than other kids to actually sit down and do it.”

Boone was quiet for a little bit after this. I didn’t know if it was just his trademark stoicism, but I didn’t want to let this conversation die. So I turned the tables and spoke about me.

“Boone, did you know I take medicine because I have something called Depression that makes my brain think I’m extra sad sometimes?”
He nodded.
“So it’s almost the same — you’ll take some medicine to help your brain focus, just like I take some to help my brain not be sad. Does that make sense?”
He nodded again, and since he looked like he was digesting this information, I gave him a minute. And then —

“Hey mom?”
I was sure we were about to have a hugely deep moment here. He’d ask tough questions, I’d give clear answers, we’d bond, we’d relate, we’d really share a moment–

“Hey mom, do any of those mosquitoes live in Michigan?”
OK, this is not what I expected. “Um.. what?”
“Those mosquitoes. YOU KNOW. THOSE MOSQUITOES.”
“Um, honey, I don’t know. There are mosquitoes here, but–”
“NO. MOM. The mosquitoes. The mosquitoes that make babies sick if they’re in their mom’s tummy.”

OK our conversation about ADHD somehow turned into one about Zika? What is even happening here?

“No, buddy, we don’t have those mosquitoes here.”
“So one didn’t bite you when I was in your tummy?”
“What? Honey, no.”
“So the mosquito didn’t make my focus not work?”

A part of me wishes I could say I fictionalized this conversation for the purposes of this blog, but I didn’t. My heart broke that he thought this diagnosis meant something was just plain wrong with him.

I told him ADHD doesn’t mean your body made some sort of mistake. It’s just means you’ll have to learn and do things differently than other people, but we’re all different in some way. This is one of the things that sets him apart. It’s not good or bad, it’s just different.

In the end, he agreed to try the medication, which I gave him the very next morning. Here’s where I’ll include that the week we tried the meds, he was in an afternoon camp at a nearby zoo. The first two days of the camp, before we’d started the Concerta, I’d said “Hey! What’d you do today?!” when I picked him up and he would, characteristically, mumble “I dunno.” But on this day, the third day of camp, the day he took medicine in the morning, he answered:

“Oh! It was great! I finished an art project I started yesterday, it’s SO cool, I can’t wait for you to see it. It’s drying. And we played a game called ‘Poison Dart Frog’ which was so fun, I want to teach Jonah how to play it. Except we probably need more people, so the next time we have all of our friends over for a bonfire, I’ll teach it to them. And we fed the budgies! It was a great day.”

And it was my turn to mumble a response.

The rest of the car ride was comfortably quiet, one of us asking or answering questions every now and again.

Since the start of this medication, for us, I’ve seen nothing but improvement. In addition to the medication, however, we have also implemented new methods for his continued success. He has very clear chores expected of him each day, he has a quiet space to work on homework, and for the most part, he stays on a very regular schedule. This is much easier to do in the school year, but that’s where we are, so we are sailing smoothly.

Before I go any further — we are a fortunate case. I have friends who have personally trialed several different medications and have yet to find the sweet spot. Our only negative side effect is that Boone occasionally has a hard time calming down for bedtime. This is still nothing compared to the hard bedtimes we had before medication, but it is noticed. That said, I have seen other kids have emotional breakdowns when they begin medications such as this. What works for one won’t always work for another — all I can share is what we have experienced.

Boone’s biggest accomplishment so far came in an email from his teacher. She wrote, in an email, that Boone was keeping up with his work at school. He brought home papers that were not only legible, they were completed far beyond the bare minimum. Just yesterday, he brought home his snack saying he didn’t want to stop what he was working on to take a break and eat it. THIS IS A BIG DEAL. However, I’m happy to report that he is also still bringing home his fair share of silly comics and drawings. He is still trying to play songs from The Legend of Zelda by ear in between piano practices. He is still our creative, inquisitive, intelligent boy, just with a little extra medicated help.

This makes me reflect on how I, as someone who has taken an antidepressant for three years, am calmer and more at peace in general, but can still unleash a lot of emotions at, say, a church worship set, or a particularly striking Hallmark commercial.

When used correctly, medicine can help us be our best self. It isn’t a crutch, or an “easy pill” — it is simply the missing puzzle piece. 

We are just at the start of this journey. I can’t speak to how middle school, high school, or even upper elementary will look. But right now, for at least a little while, I can see how second grade looks. And I like it.

If you or someone you love can identify with Boone (or me, for that matter), please speak to your doctor and see if there’s something that could help you. It might be exactly as simple as it was with Boone. It might be a heck of a lot harder to find something that works. But if you can have a similar payoff — if you can see this person that you love live their best life — it’s worth it. It’s very, very worth it.

Come back NEXT WEEK to hear from the resident Premeditated Pediatrician (I call him “husband”) who will give you the official doctor-y rundown on ADHD and what it means from the medical side. In TWO WEEKS you’ll find tips and tricks from parents JUST LIKE YOU. We’re all in this together. Share this post and grow our village!

everything i need to know i learned from my toddler

Toddlers have a particular kind of wisdom that is often overlooked by the fact that they’re highly emotionally unstable. If you take the time to really dissect the toddler behavior, however, you will see that there is much to learn from your tiny little mood machine…

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: a genius.

Love your body.

Company over? In a public place? Somebody just make you put clothes on? SCREW IT, TAKE THOSE CLOTHES OFF. Your body is beautiful and a gift that should be given to everyone. (Please note there may be some legal repercussions here if you  try this one out in your local Target. The message is the same: love thyself.)

Fight for what you want.

Even if it’s just the blue cup instead of the red cup. You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you (and want you to have the blue cup of your dreams)!

Don’t take “no” for an answer.

Also refuse to take “maybe,” “we’ll see,” “for the love just please stop talking,” “MAMA JUST NEEDS SOME ALONE TIME,” or muffled whimpers for answer either.

A cute smile goes a long way.

Even if you’ve been, like, a huge jerk all day. Just saying.

Be honest.

Yep, mommy does have a soft belly. Thanks for pointing that out. That man is wearing a silly hat. I bet he’s delighted to hear that. Oh no, he said “wow does she think!” and not anything about your odor. He’s admiring your brain. We have to go.

Let someone else take care of you.

Sometimes mysterious and invisible injuries can only be fixed by a kiss and a snuggle. Let yourself be kissed and snuggled, even if your wounds aren’t visible to the naked eye.

Love yourself.

Because, let’s face it, you’re the coolest person you know. Except for maybe your mom.