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.



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?”
“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!

so you’re waiting to go to walt disney world!

This will be my LAST post in the Walt Disney World Series… but do not fear! I have so many fun things in store for my very favorite time of year: AUTUMN! Back to school, holidays, apples, slow cookers, cardigans… OK, I’m getting a little carried away because all of those things sound fantastic. Also fantastic: DISNEY!

Not so fantastic: waiting for Disney.

But that’s what this post is specifically designed for. How can you pass the slowly dragging days on your “WDW Countdown app?” (As of this writing, we are at 31 days, for the record.)

(Also: what do you mean, you don’t have a WDW Countdown app? You will now. It’s OK.)

Waiting is hard, but we find ways to make it more tolerable and more fun. And, occasionally, lucrative.


Our “Money Chores” are special jobs Boone can do to earn Disney money. I have each chore and the amount of money it’s worth (ranging from 50 cents to $2) on a bulletin board in our living room. Boone is under absolutely no obligation to finish these chores — they are different from his normal, daily chores. He does, however, understand that if he chooses not to complete these, he will not get any extra spending money on the trip. 

To make it easy on mom and dad, who live in a world of “do you take credit cards? Excellent,” I have a small jar to collect the “finished chores.” Once the chore has been completed (and we check), we remove the card with the chore and amount, and place it in the jar. I’ll make a run to the bank a few days before our trip to withdraw the money that Boone earned.

The money chart, plus an old picture of Boone in soccer. (Where are those pictures supposed to go? I don’t think wallet pictures are a thing in 2016.)


Hi friends, I have something I need to admit.

Here goes…

I am not crafty.


(I’ve admitted this before? Oh, right. Only always.)

And here’s my real problem with crafts: I like things my way. I like things perfect. I am an INFJ with perfectionism and I don’t like to delegate or complete tasks I’m not sure I’m awesome at. I knew I wanted to sit down with Boone and giggle and craft and talk about Disney World together, but I didn’t know if I would be able to separate my need for control from my yearning to let him do his thing. Surprisingly, I let him take the lead. I prepped crafts and offered beginning instruction, and then I said “go.” And we giggled. And we talked about the Haunted Mansion. And I cringed when he went crazy with a spray bottle or cut the most jagged looking “straight line” you ever did see, but I kept my mouth shut.

And in the end, we have perfectly imperfect crafts and I learned a thing or two about my own desire for control and the importance of including your children and giving them freedom.

(HAHAHA on that second part. It would have been great if I had really learned that lesson. Mostly I stare at jagged lines and think must… redo… paper rings. I know I should learn about inclusion and freedom and you know what? I’ll keep trying. I’ll keep giving crafts and saying “go.” Until then, know this is my struggle.) 

At the advent of Pinterest, I thought I could change my craft-averse ways. I had so many boards of things I would create. I daydreamed spending long hours at Hobby Lobby and somehow turning broken chairs into coat hooks, or something. Oh, this never worked. I just don’t love crafting, and I don’t have much patience for it. So if you, like me, are craft-challenged (or you just want a couple crafts you can crank out in a very short amount of time), read on!

The Family T-Shirts

Oh, yes. Oh, yes we are that family. The family wearing the matching shirts as they walk through the happiest place on earth. (On day 1, anyway. After that it’s a bit of a free-for-all.)

In the past, we’ve made shirts with homemade iron-ons. We’ve also done tie-dye. This year: bleach Mickeys!

Boone sprayed all of our shirts, and I think he did the best with Jonah’s. What a little winner!

Mine… is… made with love. Made with love. Don’t fix love, Jennie, you don’t fix love.

This is an incredibly easy craft with only the following necessary supplies: non-white t-shirts, freezer paper, a printer (not entirely necessary, but it does make things easier), a spray bottle, and bleach. A full tutorial for this craft can be found here: Bleach Mickey T-Shirts

The Paper Ring Countdown

I’ll be honest, this craft  was inspired by the good old days of kindergarten. Cut construction paper into rings until you have enough for your countdown (as previously mentioned, we’re starting at 31). On previous trips, when we have done this craft, I would alternate black, red, and white paper rings (as we did again), but I’d embellish the rings in cute ways: black Mickey ears on the black rings, yellow “buttons” on the reds… and now I have two kids and summer just keeps happening, so we took Michael Scott’s advice and [KEPT] IT SIMPLE, STUPID.

We’ll rip off a paper ring each day and get ridiculously excited as the chain gets shorter.

Whatever kind of family vacation you plan for yourselves (and if it’s WDW, good for you!), know this: family vacations aren’t always relaxing. They aren’t the drink in your hand/toes in the sand vacations that parents in television shows seem to regularly take (where are your kids, huh guys?), but they can be FUN. You’ll be tired. You’ll be cranky sometimes. But, if you play your cards right, you’ll giggle and take pictures and not be responsible for making beds or cooking food for a week or so. 

Happy planning!

so you’re traveling to walt disney world!

If you’ve been following my Walt Disney World posts, you’ll know that I’ve written about a general overview to your Disney Parks vacation here and a more in depth look at the parks and the food here. Now that you have that Disney vacation in your sights, today’s posts will help make your travel and prep plans a little easier.

GETTING FROM POINT A (your house) to POINT B (Disney!)

What method of travel works best for you and your family? Car, plane, RV? Whatever method you choose, if you have kids in tow, entertainment is a must. Since we have, as a family, only traveled to WDW by plane, I’ll be focusing on this method. If you are getting there in a different way, however, you can adapt some of these travel tips so they work better for you.

Boone’s first trip to WDW; yes, he was seven months old.

Our plane trip will consist of a two year old, a five year old, and two adults — along with the rest of the passengers on the plane. To make an attempt at peace, I’m working on “Plane Bags” — small backpacks/tote bags filled with quiet but entertaining plane activities. Some of the items will  be things we already own (Boone’s Kindle, for example), and some will be brand new (like a draw-your-own Pokemon book I found on a couple of weeks ago). I’ll also include gum (for Boone) and suckers (for Jonah) to help with the flight ascent and descent. The kids will be given these bags at the airport and will know nothing about them ahead of time.

For that time when we just need some extra help, here are some free printables that I’ll be bringing along with us as well:

Traveling with Toddlers (Q’s to ask, BINGO)
Games to Play at the Airport

OF COURSE, despite your best efforts, kids will be kids. They’ll get bored. They’ll get hangry. (So might you.) I feel better going into a situation armed with goody bags and worksheets, because at my core I’m nothing if not premeditated (and I’m also a teacher).


Pack stuffed animal friends, because you never know where they’ll end up after your room is cleaned…

There are a zabillion websites out there with tips on packing. Fit all of your belongings in a ziploc bag! Live exclusively out of your carry on! Literally hire movers to bring all of your earthly possessions to your resort for you!

…or something like that.

Look, if you’re here looking for things like “don’t forget clothes, a toothbrush, a bathing suit, shoes,” you’re out of luck. Except for that sentence right there. That one’s free. Instead, I’m throwing together a quick list of things that would be helpful to have at Disney that you may not think to bring. Ready? Here goes.

-Ponchos: Orlando is prone to frequent mid-day rainstorms, especially at specific times of the year. There are plenty of ponchos available at the parks, but they will cost you. The ones you can pick up at your local dollar store will work just fine (and you won’t feel too bad about wadding it up and throwing it away after you’ve used it, because I’ve never met one person who can actually refold a poncho to it’s original size). Bonus: people hide under awnings in rainstorms. Put on your $1 poncho and hit rides without waiting!

-Glow in the Dark stuff: You can buy this stuff EVERYWHERE — especially during fireworks shows — but they cost a lot and are quickly forgotten. Pick these up at the dollar store when you’re buying your ponchos.

-A spray bottle: Florida is hot. Grab one of these to mist yourself with coolness when the sun is showing no mercy. Also spray your kids. They love it.

-A refillable water bottle: Make use of the many drinking fountains around the parks and keep yourself hydrated without buying drinks (or using snack credits). In the past I’ve brought a Brita Water Bottle with its own filter to keep my water tasting the best.

-Breakfast bars: We usually eat breakfast in our room at the resort before hitting the parks because 1) it’s a time and money-saver and 2) some of us get hangry if we don’t eat within ten minutes or so of waking up (guilty).


Truthfully, I don’t craft often, but when I do… it’s for Disney.

It’s the hardest part. I know. Believe me, I know. Once you’ve booked the trip and you’ve started making goody bags and stockpiling glow-in-the-dark bracelets, you will want to get moving! But unless you’ve booked a trip in the very near future, you’ll be waiting. And you’re still waiting now, because next week I’ll have some fun activities and crafts to help pass the Disney waiting time!

Sending nothing but magical wishes your way…