focus tips and focus tricks

Hello! Thanks so much for joining me into this look at childhood ADHD. If you’re here for the first time, welcome! This is the final installment of a series on childhood ADHD. If you want to catch up, you can find my personal experiences mothering a child with ADHD here: focus, part 1 and focus, part 2. You can also find a post on ADHD from the perspective of a pediatrician (and a dad) here: focus, md.

Today’s post comes largely from you, dear readers. I sent out requests on social media asking any of you with experience with ADHD (either for yourself or for a loved one) to answer two questions: When did you first suspect ADHD and what made you think it was a possibility, and What did you do to manage it? The responses from all of you were fantastic, so thank you so much for sharing! I’m keeping all of the submissions anonymous, but please know that just about all of these could have come directly from me (but they didn’t!). ADHD seems big and scary, but progress can be made and success can be found — especially in community.

A recent drawing of Boone’s. Intentionally upside-down. Appropriately so, I’d say, give our topic.


Thanks for being in this community.

Without further ado:

When did you first suspect ADHD? What made you think it was a possibility?

“When my son was in kindergarten, he would get completely wrapped up in a TV show, and we would have to physically block his view or remove him to get his attention. He was very impulsive. He has NEVER been a good sleeper, it could take hours sometimes to get him to sit still and relax enough to fall asleep.”

“I could watch my child read a whole book by herself and finish worksheets in no time flat by the time she was in kindergarten, but I could never get her to remember really simple things like bringing her jacket or lunchbox home.”

“When I was younger, I was at the top of my class, but focus was always a struggle. Looking back now, I am so thankful my parents had me tested because it taught me that my mind doesn’t work the same way everyone else’s does, and that’s not a bad thing.”

“My mom suggested she noticed some attention issues with my third grader for a while now, but I brushed it off until his teacher said she was concerned because he is so far behind and he really struggles to say seated and focused.”

“We suspected it at age five. Our child couldn’t do anything that wasn’t very plainly scheduled out. Free time was a disaster.”

“I was diagnosed around age ten. My parents had to remind me to stop, wait, count to ten, and reorient myself.”

“My adult son was diagnosed in seventh grade. He was always hyper as a child, so my husband and I suspected it as early as age three.”

What did you do to manage ADHD?

**Note: I’m not including medications in this list, though several people (almost everyone) included them in some way in their management plans. Medications can and do help, as I’ve mentioned already, but that’s a conversation you’ll need to have with a medical doctor.**

“Structure, organization, verbal rewards for good choices.”

“I needed to create a quiet work space without distractions for my daughter so she could focus on her schoolwork. She also does her school work at the same time each day.”

“Routine, no red dye, cognitive behavior therapy.”

“We would do homework in small increments and pause to literally run around the house a couple times and then back to homework. Also, working toward rewards would inspire him. He would also need detailed instructions. ‘Go clean up your room’ never got him anywhere. ‘Clothes off the floor and downstairs, bed made, vacuum…’”

“I found yelling and getting worked up did NOT help. As frustrated as I would get, I needed to talk to my daughter in a really calm and clear voice, giving simple but direct instructions once she was giving me eye contact. She needed really clear guidelines and structure.”

“We use a board in the morning to help him remember what he needs to do and I’ve started writing reminders on his hand on the key things to bring home from school everyday. L for Lunchbox, C for Coat, etc. We also have a 504 plan (Individualized Education Plan) at school so his teachers are aware of his struggles.”

“I think the best thing my parents ever did was always tell me that having ADHD did not mean I couldn’t do just as much and be just as successful as everyone else; it just meant I’d sometimes have to do things in a different way.”

If you have anything you’d like to add, please do so in the comments! I’m grateful for the dialogue and awesome notes I’ve received from so many of you. This concludes the Premeditated Mama ADHD series, but I’d always love to further the discussion with you one on one! If you aren’t already a member, join the “Premeditated Mama” page on facebook and let’s continue this journey together.

focus, part 1

focus, part 1

When Boone was three, he had some awful bedtimes. During that three year old summer, he would be OK during the day, but as soon as the first hint of nighttime was in the air, it was like a switch would flip. His eyes got wide, his body went tense, and it was like he wasn’t in control of himself anymore.

It was rough. But, I theorized, he was THREE. And adjusting to a new baby brother. And one day, he’d grow out of it.

When Boone was four, the awful bedtimes continued. The same wide eyes and tense muscles, the same nightly stress for his mama. “He just needs to be in school full time,” I thought. “He’ll do much better when he gets worn out from learning all day.”

When Boone was five and started kindergarten, we had some bedtime peace. After school each day, I’d ask “what did you do?” And he would mumble something like “I don’t know” and shrug when I’d ask him where he left his lunch box. Or jacket. Or shoes.

But, clearly, this was an adjustment. He was still adapting, right? Adapting to a full time school day, to school rules, to… everything. I was noticing that other kids were telling their parents everything that happened throughout their day. Boone still wasn’t… but that was hardly anything to worry about, I decided. He was excelling at academics; one of his class’s top readers, top spellers, top workers.

When Boone was six and in first grade, his teacher said to me, “he’s clearly very smart, but his focus is not there.”

Umm… what?

WHOA.

WHOA.

My smart angel precious baby child wasn’t focusing well? At first I dove into some heavy denial (maybe she’s just remembering days he was kind of sick, maybe she’s confusing him with someone else?), but then I thought about the bedtimes. Then I thought about the times he couldn’t tell me what he did during a day of school. Then I thought about all of the lost lunch boxes and clothing items. Then I remembered when my husband Jason, the pediatrician, said, “you know, I think Boone has ADHD.”

I’m very open about my own mental health. Depression, anxiety, and meds are not topics I’ll shy away from.

When they’re about me.

But with Boone… I didn’t want him to bear labels and stigmas so young. He wasn’t at an age where he could “own a diagnosis,” or so I thought, and I did not want to push that on him. And besides, didn’t ADHD give kids unbridled energy? And if he had ADHD, could he do all of the things he does, like speed through novellas and ace spelling tests? In first grade he was doing multiplication worksheets, for crying out loud!

Too cool for school (and focus issues…)?

So, like any reasonable person would do, I cried and stressed out and ate chocolate and avoided making decisions for as long as possible.

But then I realized the problems weren’t going away, despite every “focus hack” I found online or in books. While Boone could sit and read an entire book, if he were told to do something he didn’t want to do, it was an epic battle of wills. It didn’t matter if he was capable of, say, practicing piano, or writing a short journal entry, if he didn’t want to do it, it was a struggle. And not just a little, tiny, let’s talk about it struggle. Nope. It was three year old bedtimes all over again.

So I made an appointment with our pediatrician (who is not Boone’s father, by the way, going for unbiased opinions here) and after some surveys with Boone’s teacher, Jason, and myself, it was clear: Boone’s focus needed help. We had an official diagnosis of ADHD and a plan to trial some low dose medication.

My questions still lingered. Where was all of his energy? Oh yeah… at bedtimes. How could he read so fast? Oh yeah… he was choosing the books he wanted to read. What about the multiplication?! Oh yeah… even though he could solve the problems, getting him to sit down to work on it was a chore, to put it mildly.

I had a little more research to do, but I was ready to help my son reach his full potential in any way I could. I filled a prescription for Concerta, said a prayer, and began to watch and wait.

For part two of this post, come back to this blog NEXT WEEK, Wednesday, September 27.

what i learned on my summer vacation

what i learned on my summer vacation

It’s officially back to school time for us. My big kid started today, and my little kid starts tomorrow. Second grade and preschool, respectfully. I kind of thought by the time I sat down to write this post it would be full of HALLELUJAHs and WOOHOOs, but you know what? It’s bittersweet.

Weird, I know.

I love school. I particularly love back to school. There are some kids who thrive in being away, being social and interactive outside the home, and my kids are those kids. I can plan fun summer activities every single day until I collapse (which is usually the case) but it’s always more fun when someone else does the planning. So you could say we’ve been ready for the first day of school since… the last day of school.

I started summer thinking that it would be awful. That despite our fun planned activities, our house would be a tornadic disaster (check), kids would complain about our fun planned activities (check), bedtimes would be a joke (check check) and I would generally hate summer (…not check).

I love my kids. I feel like that’s a necessary thing I should say. But I’m a full time stay-at-home-mom married to a doctor with a crazy schedule. …and I’m an introvert. To sum up: mama needs a break.

But I am premeditated, so I went into summer with lists and plans and dreams and goals. And yes, my house was a mess, and my kids complained, and bedtimes were insane, but we sucked the marrow out of summer. We swam, biked, ran, camped, played, snuggled, read, drew, fished, boated, watched movies, ate snacks, roasted marshmallows and hot dogs over a bonfire, had picnics, and, honestly, we had fun every day.

Don’t get me wrong: some days I wanted to rip my hair out. Some days I wanted to find that swear word book about going the BLEEP to sleep and read it with a ferocious intensity. Some days we watched more screen time than is recommended. Some days we stayed in pajamas all day.

If this doesn’t sum up summer in one photo though…

I think my problem with summer is that well, for one, I don’t like being hot. But for two, it’s an up close and personal reminder of how big my kids are getting. The first time we go to the pool, I’m reminded at how much better they can swim this year. The first time we mini golf, I’m blown away at how quickly they can sink the ball. I know these changes take place over the school year also — and to some extent, exclusively — but when we’re doing the same summer activities year after year, it’s like a real life time hop. I see them this year and I can see every year that came before. And it’s a lot for my heart to handle.

So I have decided, my new plan for summer vacation is to overdose on it. To continue to do ALL OF THE THINGS so that during the cold school year the memories of our fun can keep me warm.

But for now, I will leave the planning up to the teachers, I will trust others to protect and care for the hearts of mine that live outside of my body. I’m sitting in a quiet, clean house, drinking coffee and enjoying the quiet.

But also… I kind of miss the noise.

how to survive your summer in 51 easy steps

1. Make a plan called “How to Have the Best Summer Ever!”

2. Realize on the second day of summer that your plan is garbage.

3. Make a new plan called “Our Carefree Summer!”

4. Don’t tell everyone that your new summer plan is actually called “Dear God help us I miss the structure.”

5. Send your three year old back to his room every morning at 6:00 am.

6. Purchase a fancy color-changing clock for your three year old that will glow green when he is allowed to leave his room in the morning.

7. Say “Stay in your room until your clock is green” every five minutes starting every morning at 6:00 am.

8. Coffee.

9. If June: buy expensive mineral sunscreen and have your children stand like statues while you slather it on like spackle.

10: If July (or mid to late June, whenever you crack): buy cheap spray sunscreen and mist in your child’s general direction. Ask them lovingly to “close eyes and pinch noses.”

11. Just come to terms with the fact that sand will be everywhere.

12. Cry a little bit when you see the first back-to-school display.

13. Cry a little harder when your six year old learns super soakers are a thing.

14. Wine.

15. Teach your kids that the “S Word” is “Snack,” and we do not swear.

16. Glance into your child’s room to see clothes and sand and toys and books and bedding everywhere. Then say a different kind of “S Word” and just shut that door. Shut the door.

17. Try not to look too excited when your kid says he’s tired. “Do you want to TAKE A NAP DO YOU WANT TO TAKE A NAP?” Nope, he’s good now.

18. Visit every park that’s ever existed. Pack every vegetable and cracker and fruit you’ve ever owned. Listen to children complain about being bored and hungry.

19. Attempt to put your child to bed when the sun is still very high in the sky.

20. Try to explain daylight savings time and end up crying and exclaiming that it really, truly is bedtime, no matter what it looks like outside.

21. More wine.

22. Curse the “young adults” next door who are being loudly unsupportive of your belief that it is, in fact, bedtime.

23. Send your kid back to his room.

24. Send your kid back to his room.

25. Send your kid back to his room.

26. Go to sleep.

27. Wake up; send your kid back to his room.

28. Make a mental note to research how tiny humans function with so little sleep. You never will, though. You’re too tired!

29. Buy school supplies far too early. Think about teachers. Mentally send them a fruity cocktail. They earned it, man.

30. Start planning activities that are an hour or two away, just for the air-conditioned kid-buckled driving time.

31. Watch your kid swim the entire length of the pool underwater, when last year he wouldn’t even go down the slide.

32. Realize that summers really go pretty fast, even if sometimes they seem kinda long.

33. Remember it’s your three year old’s last summer before he starts school — preschool, sure — but school nonetheless.

34. Watch your six year old ride a bike without training wheels, after summers of complete bike apathy.

35. Sit in the grass with your kids and catch fireflies long after they should be in bed.

36. Think “this summer thing isn’t so bad.”

37. Get up too early, stay up too late, overplan the warm July days you have left.

38. Vow to do the same when it’s August.

39. You’ll sleep when you’re dead, anyway.

40. (Or when school starts.)

41. (Or when daylight savings time FINALLY ENDS.)

42. Stop rolling your eyes when people say, “oh, they’re only young once.” Even though they’re actually young for like 12-18 years or however you want to gauge it.

43. I mean, they are only young once.

44. At least, they’re only six and three during summer once.

45. So decide to just “soak it all up.”

46. Except for the sand.

47. I mean, you’ll soak that up anyway without even trying.

48. Maybe invest in some industrial strength blackout curtains.

49. Buy lots of coffee and wine.

50. Embrace your summer fully.

(51. And pray for all of the teachers. Their time is coming. You know it, I know it, they know it; pray, just pray, just pray.)

Happy summer to all, and to all a good bedtime. (Or wine.)

hashtag mom life

Last week I had a parental first. A milestone, if you will. While in the bath, Ev (22 months) suddenly stood up. I was sitting outside the tub and couldn’t see the water from my vantage point.

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NOTE: This is an old photo. The following did not take place in this particular bath.

“Icky!” Ev cried.
“What’s icky, buddy?” I replied.

What was icky, friends? What is ALWAYS THE ICKY THING?

Poop.

It was poop.

Floating there in the tub with a sense of superiority. Good job Ev, for feeling the appropriate level of shame associated with your own waste. To make a long, bleach-filled story short, the bath was finished and the tub was cleaned harder than it had ever been.

Then I washed my hands thirteen times.

In sharing this story with friends with and without children, the responses were (from the latter) “EWW” and (from the former) “HOW has that never happened to you before?!”

Believe me, non-parents, I feel you. Eww is correct. But it was amusing to me how different the reactions were. And it helped me realize that poop in the tub isn’t the only thing that is now just a normal part of my mom-life.

There isn’t a thing I’d change about my mom-life. It’s the best, poop and meltdowns and all. But it has certainly helped me see the world with different eyes than the woman I was before.

So I sat down and had a little conversation with my pre-mom self and we chose our five favorite phrases that have changed entirely since entering mamahood.

Do you have any to add?

1. Do you need to go potty?

What it meant before I was a mom: Do you have to use the facilities?

What it means now: Would you like to do your business now, or would you prefer to wait until you are in the bathtub? Or on Santa’s lap? Or as soon as I have changed your diaper?

2. Time for dinner!

What it meant before I was a mom: It’s a reasonable 6:30pm. 7 or later, perhaps, if you’re fancy. Have a glass of wine. Enjoy!

What it means now: It’s 4:45, dinner started five minutes ago, and half of it is on the ground. The other half is being pushed around a plate by someone who recently pooped in the tub. Bonus points if somebody throws up.

3. Let’s go!

What it meant before I was a mom: Put on shoes, if necessary. Grab coat, if needed. Go.

What it means now: Begin foot race around house in the style of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Tackle small road runner (gracefully, and with love). Wrestle one shoe on foot while child wiggles and screams “NO!” Wrestle other shoe on foot while child removes the first shoe. Repeat this process several times. Throw child over your shoulder like a sack of potatoes (gracefully, and with love). Wrestle child into car seat. Listen to so many demands you feel like the assistant to a very rude and overly entitled diva. Cry a little bit. Go.

4. Time for bed!

What it meant before I was a mom: Nighty night. Don’t let the iPhone hit you on the face while you “wind down” to the Facebook/Twitter/Instagram cycle of self-inflicted insomnia!

What it means now: Take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, and start a carefully crafted routine that begins with you as Mary Poppins and ends with you as a zombie extra from The Walking Dead.

5. Netflix & Chill

What it meant before I was a mom: A fairly decent chance of starting a B-list movie and participating in some solid making out.

What it means now: Putting on/remaining in sweat pants, sprawling unattractively on a couch, recoiling at any and all physical contact, and exchanging mumbling sighs with your partner while alternating glances between your phone and your fourth viewing of the entire series of My Name is Earl.

hope and turkey noodle soup

This is the first post in an Advent series I’m writing this year. Each week will loosely focus on the symbols of the candles of the Advent wreath and how they relate to parenting, and every post will end with a recipe.

This week is about hope.

We had a bit of a different Thanksgiving this year. The weekend prior to the holiday, Ev and I spent the night in the ER getting breathing treatments for his croup. We both spent the rest of the week catching up on sleep and being crabby (in my case) or vomiting and maintaining a high fever (in his case). So when Thursday rolled around, Jay took John to the family Thanksgiving while Ev and I kept our crabby, germy selves at home.

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Give him a book, and it’s almost like it isn’t the middle of the night.

Ev is in that toddler stage of immunity-building where he catches everything. He is coughing, he is snotty, he is throwing up. The only silver lining here is that he is the sweetest and happiest sick kid you’ll ever meet. He smiles and loves on you. He wants to read books. He wants to play. So, on our solo Thanksgiving, that’s what we did. We read Dr. Suess’ There’s a Wocket in my Pocket so many times, that if I didn’t already have it memorized (thank you, baby John), I would now. We said “vroom” and made cars drive around the toy room. We giggled and made animal sounds.

In the quiet of the day that was supposed to be loud, I looked at Ev with wonder. He is so unlike his brother. What will he become? What will he do? Who will he impact? I have wondered the same about John. John has long idolized his daddy’s profession and has decided that he, too, will be a doctor when he grows up. This is a wonderful and beautiful and ultimately financially responsible goal. I wish I could hold five year old John to this. It feels safe, normal.

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Just some good, old-fashioned father-son bonding over med school anatomy textbooks.

I think we wish a lot of things as parents. Wish for health, success, happiness, love. Wishing isn’t bad. But here’s why I believe this first candle, this first week of Advent, is hope — or expectation — instead of wish: wishing is just for you.

 

Hope is optimistic. Hope is altruistic. It is active. It is something we can do for ourselves or others, and something we can expect to bring about real change.

I wish Ev would stop getting sick so much of the time… but I hope he stays happy and builds the immunity he needs.

I wish John would be the doctor he wants to be at age five… but I hope he finds a career he’s passionate about.

I hope we don’t lose sight of the hope involved in the Christmas season. So often we only hear about the wishes, the wants, the lists. It isn’t bad to wish or to want, but wishing is passive. It is just waiting. It isn’t doing.

We are in a season of waiting — that’s what Advent is, after all — but we are waiting with hope. We know the end is salvation, light, peace. We don’t know what happens in the in-between, but we know the end is good. Trust the end is good.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
-Romans 8:28

I wish that you and yours stay healthy throughout this Advent season, but I hope that you can find beauty in staying home if you need to. If you find yourself needing some comfort and relief, I do implore you to make this soup — it is a healthy and comforting food superstar. Without further ado:

Turkey Noodle Soup
(Chicken works too, but you’ve got leftover turkey right now, don’t you?)

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Note: Any time you roast a chicken or turkey, I hope (!) you make your own stock from the carcass. If you haven’t, do it next time! It is positively the easiest food to make, and homemade stock is only about a million times better than store-bought (one blogger’s opinion, anyway). I loosely follow the 100 Days of Real Food recipe here.

Second note: I’m guessing on almost all of my ingredient amounts, because I subscribe to a “make it up as you go along” cooking philosophy. So basically, don’t follow and measure TOO closely. We aren’t baking, after all.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic (may throw in some onion here too — I have a family of onion-avoiders)
8 cups turkey stock
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 ribs of celery, diced
2 cups shredded turkey
homemade whole wheat egg noodles! (OK, or any egg noodles)
salt and pepper

Saute the garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add the stock and the turkey and vegetables. At this point, if you are adding homemade noodles, you’ll want to cook them in the soup for about twenty minutes, or until soft, or the consistency you like. If you are using store-bought noodles, follow the cooking instructions on the package. Season with salt and pepper. You can use other spices, but if you made your own stock, your soup will already be quite flavorful.

Enjoy!

Quick note about homemade noodles: Y’all, they are so much easier than I ever thought they would be. I’m a bummer with a rolling pin, though, so I I use my manual pasta roller.

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Metro Fulfillment House Italian Style Pasta Maker
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Whole wheat egg noodles! They don’t look perfect, but they taste pretty amazing.

Here’s to hope and soup! Have a great week.