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.)

drowning in summer

I wrote a “What I’m Into” post and had fully intended to share it, but honestly? The thing I’m into the most right now… Is survival.

jonah crying
Jonah, dude, I feel you.

I know people love summer. There are so many reasons to love summer. But I find myself more overwhelmed than I ever am making school lunches or setting early alarms or remembering to get backpacks ready to go. I know some of this (or all of it, if we’re getting technical) is my fault. I planned a full, busy summer. I’m the one who decided we need to go spend long days at splash pads and beaches, we need to stay up late and wake up slowly, we need to suck the marrow out of summer while we can.

boone strawberries
Strawberry picking while sweating down to our bones? Check.

And in a Pinterest/Instagram/Facebook world, it’s hard for me not to want this. Not because I see other moms posting fun summer activities and I feel inadequate — it’s because I see other moms posting fun summer activities and I want in! But as much as I love to plan, I’m careful to save precious moments of down time so my kids have the opportunity to be bored. Great things have come out of this boredom. Boone and Jonah are playing together like they never have before. Boone’s writing stories and creating recipes. Jonah’s singing familiar songs and making up new ones.

It is beautiful, and I’m tired.

To wish for fall and winter is to wish away the summer when my kids were 5 and 2, and I don’t want to fast forward through any moments of their lives.

And yet, I struggle. Summer is hard. Free time is hard. Knowing that I’ll give Boone up for the majority of his day once September hits is hard. Knowing that Boone desperately misses the unique schedule and structure of school and takes it out on me by being crazy is hard.

I don’t write any of this to be negative. I write it to be real. Please remember that behind every smiling Instagram picture is a mom barely keeping herself together. Or a five year old who really needs a solid night’s sleep. Or that there are huge heaps of sand-filled laundry just outside of the frame. I know that my kids are happy and thriving. I know they are smart and as protected as can be. I know that deeply, strongly, and intensely, they are so loved. When I think of this, I know that I am not failing as a parent. I know, even on the hard days — the days where everyone screams and fights back and refuses to sleep — even on those days, I’m raising little men who will do great things. And while I appreciate the truth of this, it doesn’t make the long, hot, crazy days of summer always run smoothly.

Sometimes I pray for easy, good days. Sometimes I recite Psalm 23 when my patience runs especially thin.

He restoreth my soul… Lord, restore my soul…

And He does listen, He restores, but do you know what verse I am reminded of the most?

In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world. -John 16:33

The first time I heard this response to a frantic “LORD, JUST HELP ME THROUGH THIS” prayer, I almost laughed. It seemed like a joke. I know you’ve overcome the world, Lord. I’m just asking now that you help me overcome potty training.

In this world you will have trouble… In this world, you will have a toddler who consistently removes his shorts and pees on the floor. In this world, you will have a five year old who wants to be fifteen and do things on his own. In this world, you will have messy floors, and piles of laundry, and breakdowns that result in your purchasing specialty syrupy latte drinks despite “not eating sugar.” You’ll have awesome, memory-making days where everyone laughs and gets along, and terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, Alexander-type days. You’ll have summer. Or winter, if that’s less your thing. Or Spring. (I refuse to believe Fall is anyone’s least-favorite season; at least not anyone in Michigan.)

I have overcome the world. Whatever your world is at the moment. God doesn’t promise ease. He promises He’s been there first. He’s seen my summer; He can count the good days and the bad days. It isn’t always easy, but it never needs to be lonely.

For this, I am grateful.

summer tips (for new parents… of toddlers)

Congratulations! You’re the proud parent of a bouncing baby toddler. This is not a “summer tips for new parents” list, this is a “summer tips for new parents of toddlers” list. Whole new ballgame. There may have been a time (last year) when you thought it was a lot of work to go somewhere in the summer. Let’s say you’re meeting friends at the beach. Not only do you need your personal beach essentials, you also need your diaper bag, baby beach stuff, AND the infant in the clunky bucket seat. Almost easier to stay home, right? Nah, you got this. Armed with innocence and a healthy dose of what I like to call “crazy sleep,” you’re ready to visit to big, brave world.

100_3299
HAHAHAHA remember when we thought it was hard to bring you places?!

Besides, it only gets worse from here.

It’s a brand new summer, and your tiny, well-contained child is now a toddler. He runs. He demands. He takes off his pants at inopportune times to announce things like “I pee on the floor!”

And yet.

You carried this child for nine months. You survived the period of crazy sleep (or you’re still in it; kudos). You brought this child, as a red-faced, round-the-clock-nursing infant to parties, church services, weddings, libraries, everywhere! Surely you can handle him as a summer toddler!

IMG_1894.JPG
“Now pose nicely with your auntie! Aren’t we having fun?” “No.”

You can now! With these FIVE, LIFE CHANGING (ok, maybe not) tips…

1.) Repeat after me: “I have the power. I have the power. I have the power.”

Toddlers are amazing at sucking all of the confidence out of a room. If you don’t adopt this as your mantra, you’ll be spending your summer watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and eating goldfish from the bag. Who has the power?! Not the two year old, don’t fall into this trap.

2.) Always travel with at least six pairs of toddler socks. 

Your precious bundle of tiny human may be in sandals or barefoot all summer, but should you want to visit any bounce house/indoor play place, get some socks on that kid. Otherwise, you risk being turned away by the bounce house keeper, and this is a surefire way to bring on your child’s wrath.

3.) Two words: spray sunscreen.

Oh, it’s toxic and causes food allergies and cancer? If you think your toddler will stay still long enough for you to rub hard clay all over his exposed skin, you are wrong. Spray in his general direction and hope for the best. (Real tip: I do use spray sunscreen, but I spray it in my hands to apply on my child’s face/neck. He doesn’t risk inhaling sunscreen, and I’m in and out of there in about sixty seconds.)

4.) Always pack an extra pair of shorts. 

Because he’ll need a change after he’s pulled his first pair down and peed on them.

5.) Go.

So your small tyrant may have a meltdown. They may spend every second you’re away trying to escape from your line of sight. They may cry, yell “don’t hit me!!!!” when no one is near them, announce their undying love for their own private parts, refuse to wave at friends, wave exclusively at strangers, or anything else their little minds concoct, but mamas? Go. Don’t live inside and in fear of what could be this summer. Go and do and live.

And remember all of the embarrassing things your kids do so you can remind them about it at their wedding.

field trip fridays (& some review)

Happy Summer!

We have finished the school year, so that means Boone is officially a first grader (YIKES). Jonah’s officially very two, which has nothing to do with the fact that school is done. It does explain why he’s frequently covered in food and/or without pants.

We kicked off summer in the purest, most innocent way possible… Boone had the stomach flu. Thankfully it truly was a “24 hour bug,” and he hasn’t been so kind as to share it with anyone else.

jonah yogurt
Ah yes Jonah, a yogurt hair mask. How very pinteresty of you.

So our very first masterchef monday got off to somewhat of a rough start, as the chef-in-training was down for the count. He requested “goldfish and gatorade” for breakfast (which he barely touched), so we definitely weren’t going to push any sort of food prep. He drifted in and out of sleep and The Legend of Zelda on the couch. I was somehow able to convince him to do a math worksheet (“I’m really good at math, mama, even when I’m sick” — at least he’s modest), and he made his own breakfast today (fruit and yogurt parfait), so he’s certainly back on the upswing.

boone math
Mathin’ it up on a messy summer counter.
boone parfait
Eat your heart out, Gordon Ramsay.

Today was our first tech-free tuesday, and I’m pleased (and slightly afraid of jinxing it) to say that it was fantastic! When Boone first woke up he said, “hey, while you make breakfast can I watch — OH! Nevermind, it’s tech-free Tuesday!” (Woohoo!)

tech free letter
Ink pen and notepad, my two trusty summer companions.

Jason was home so he and Boone had some one-on-one fun time which surely helped. I mentioned in an earlier post that Boone would have “screen time cards” to earn and use for screen time in the summer (with the exception of Tuesdays, of course). Boone decided these cards should absolutely be in the shape of rupees from the video game The Legend of Zelda. Thanks to Jason’s fantastic dad skills, Boone got his wish today.

jason rupees
Painting some rupee-shaped screen time cards, like ya do.
rupees
Not completely finished, but getting there.

If you’re a Zelda fan, you may enjoy knowing that the colors of these rupees correspond with the amounts they are worth on Skyward Sword. Blue are worth five minutes, red are worth twenty minutes, and there is one special silver rupee worth one hundred minutes that will be hidden away until mama has a really bad day.

(For real.)

If you’re not a Zelda fan, you’re welcome for that insight into our nerdy little lives.

Tomorrow will be our first wacky wednesday, followed by our first thinking thursday, which will bring us to the LAST POST in this premeditated summer series:

FIELD TRIP FRIDAYS!

I’m going to be honest here; I’m not going to print any specific worksheets for Fridays (or the weekends) and they are precisely as the name implies: days for field trips. Sometimes these trips will be very close to home and very simple:

The beach (we’re five minutes from Lake MI, so this is a no-brainer)
Splash Pads
The outdoor pool at our gym
Local trails, parks
The mall (because sometimes it’s gonna rain)
The children’s museum
The zoo
The Critter Barn
Dutch Village (what, you don’t have a Dutch-themed amusement park in your town? Too bad.)

Some of these trips will require a little bit of planning (and prayers no one gets sick)

Train ride to Chicago
Michigan’s Adventure
Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland (because who doesn’t LOVE Christmas in summer?!)
Sea Life Aquarium
Binder Park Zoo

We might think of more, but that’s what we’re starting with anyway. And yes, of course, we might go on “field trips” when it isn’t Friday. We might watch a movie on a Tuesday sometime. We may abandon all the plans at the end of July when we’re all hot and sweaty and sick of each other…

…but hopefully not.

Thanks for reading this series — feel free to pass it along! I’ll be back next week with the normal observations/humor/nerd jokes/life stuff.