Tuesday, March 25, 2014


As I sit here at my desk, in my classroom, after school, waiting for my daughter to do her homework and "getting work done" myself, I take in everything around me. I hear the voices in the hallway. I hear the piano lessons going on three classrooms down. I hear my daughter eating her snack. I hear her writing on the white board. I see her out of the corner of my eye. The rest of the edges of my eyes see the clutter that surronds me, a hundred broken thoughts from the day that has been. The heater is going and just shut off. The piano student just missed a note. Eliana just slurped some juice, then got another apple slice. I have stuff on the counter across the room, just within eyesight above the screen of my computer. I can't shut it all out. All of this has been going on around me, visually and auditorily since I opened up this window to write. My life is one giant wheel of distraction, and I'm not sure how to get off. Worse, I am not sure how to help my daughter, since I know what it is like to spend a life in this particular theme park.

I look at my desk and am hit with a thousand thoughts all at once. "I need to enter that stack in the grade book..." "That's a good book; I should finish reading it. I should recommend it to..." "I wonder if I still need those business cards? I don't even know if that student is still tutoring." "Junior Mints... mmm.... Junior Mints... oh. It's empty." I need to return those assignments. Wait. I need to take pictures of the best ones for future reference first." "Awww.... student art!" "I should count those tests to make sure I have enough copies for tomorrow." "I should also make sure I have enough answer sheets." "I didn't have anyone sharpen pencils today. Maybe Eliana can do that when she's finished homework." "Eliana, did you finish your homework?" "I think this will make a good project for next year. I thought it would make a good project this year, but I put it away and forgot. I don't want to forget again, so I'll leave it out." "If I highlight the edge of my master copies, I can copy them and not confuse the original with the handouts." On... and on... and on... it goes.

I am making an effort this week to head home earlier than usual. Often I don't head home until 6, but I think that aiming to be home by 5 is better for Eliana and for me. I have dinner thawed in the fridge and all I have to do is bake it, so an hour should be sufficient for that. But then the ideas start flowing and I get lost in time. I have more ideas than I could possibly implement, yet see the beauty in all of them. I start implementing the best ideas first, only to realize that I am planning for the future and may or may not have completed all the work required for the now. This is my life. I lead a life of distraction.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Impact of ADHD

ADHD has had a significant impact in our home. Though neither my husband nor I have been diagnosed, we both have some pretty strong indicators that suggest we suffer from ADHD. Earlier this week, our only daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, something we have suspected for the last couple years.

Now, before you think this is all "woe is me" and pity party, I just want you to know where I'm coming from when I talk about the impact ADHD has in our home. Sometimes I assume the organizational struggles I face are typical of every mom. Then I see the lives other people lead and wonder if that's true. This is not about throwing a little pity party, but it is about recognizing the differences between living in an ADHD home and living what others think of as a "typical" life.

Also, I am not a professional, so don't take what I have to say as professional opinion. They are merely the ramblings of a woman who has struggled with her own chronic disorganization and is staring in the face of requisite consistency, hoping she can pull it off enough to give her daughter the tools she needs to succeed in life.

I have always overcomplicated things. I tend toward the "If 2 steps are good, 12 steps are better" approach and, as it turns out, 12 steps are not always better. I find the creativity necessary for my 12 step approach to be invigorating, even if I never actually finish the project. I love creativity. In fact, I have a really hard time not being creative. Also, this contributes to my chronic disorganization. The ideas flow faster than my body can keep up, leaving a wake of creative destruction in my path.

My husband, in part, copes with his ADHD by removing visual distraction from his environment. We call it the Tasmanian Devil when he goes on one of his decluttering rampages. Nothing is safe. If it's out, it will most likely be sacrificed for the good of a clean work surface. Combine his tendency to purge with my penchant for creative destruction, and you have a pretty good picture of a lot of the conflicts our marriage has weathered.

Now that our daughter has been diagnosed with ADHD, I have been re-reading some of the resources on structure and organization necessary for creating a supportive environment for those with ADHD. As I read, I feel hopeless that I can ever maintain the structure my daughter needs in her world, as long as I have this pinball machine pinging around in my brain.

As despair begins to set in, though, I begin to take mental note of the sections in these resources that I have highlighted and no longer need highlighted because I have actually implemented them. A teeny, tiny bit of hope begins to grow. A year and a half ago, these were solutions that weren't part of our daily lives. Now, they are things that we don't necessarily have to think about to maintain. So.... I am going to celebrate the little successes. The following are ways that ADHD has impacted our lives, and how we have responded, for the better.

  •  Each of us do our own laundry, on a schedule that works best for us. Eliana does a load each weekend, alternating between school uniforms and regular clothing. Leif does his laundry approximately twice a month, whenever his laundry basket is full. I do my laundry once a month, usually the first weekend a month. 
  •  Eliana has a very regular bedtime, beginning with Melatonin at 7:30, followed by brushing her teeth, pajamas, potty, and ending with reading in bed by 8. We try to keep this as consistent as possible. 
  • I returned to work this year, which has been HUGE, especially when it comes to maintaining a regular schedule for myself and my family. 
  • I pick out my clothes for the week on Sunday so I don't have to think about what to wear each day. This allows me the maximum amount of sleep (important, since I also have RA) and still allows me to look my best at work each day. 
  • On uniform laundry weeks, we put together 2 weeks worth of Eliana's uniforms, so she doesn't ever have to think about what to wear. Each uniform set is in a canvas bin in her closet, so she just has to grab a bin and put her clothes on. 
  • We make Eliana's lunches for the week on Sunday so that she doesn't have to think about food each morning, just grab a lunch from the fridge and head out the door. Also, making all her lunches at once allows us to think through the nutrition and make sure she has food pyramid appropriate lunches each day, which helps balance her blood sugar.
  • Each day after school, Eliana comes to my classroom and has a snack, then completes her homework while I prep for the next day's classes. 
  • My friend Amy comes over every Sunday evening and we plan our weeks. My weekly plan usually involves entering lesson plans for the week, and hers includes planning the homeschool week for her children. I would probably not be consistent in starting my week this way without a buddy to keep me accountable, plus it gives us both productive social time in an otherwise social-sparse weekly schedule. 
  • I purge Eliana's clothes regularly, removing items that don't fit or are no longer worn. These items get donated or handed down to other kids as soon as possible (though, I admit, is not always as soon as I'd like). 
  • I have a bin in my closet that allows me to easily purge my own items quickly and easily. Once the bin is full, I donate those items. This works well for jewelry, shoes, clothes, etc. Anything that I see and think, "I don't wear that any more" or "that is too cumbersome to figure out how to wear well" or "that doesn't fit me right" goes in the bin. If I change my mind, I usually have a little time before the bin is full to remove the item, but often once it's in the bin, it stays. 
  • I keep cleaning supplies where I need them. That means that every bathroom has toilet cleaner and a toilet brush and cleaning wipes in it, so when the sudden urge to clean the toilet strikes, I can do it quickly instead of getting distracted as I go to the other room to get the supplies. This sort of distraction totally happens to me on a regular, daily basis. 
  • We have a system for incoming mail. I get the mail, pull out the few items I want or that are for me, and the rest goes in a bin for my husband to deal with. When he is ready to deal with the mail, pay bills, etc, he knows exactly where to find them and has his own system for dealing with them. Because his problem is not clutter, this designated mail spot works well for us. Because my problem is clutter, this designated mail spot keeps important things from being thrown out as "clutter" that got left on the counter. 
  • We take our shoes off when we enter the house, so we store ALL our shoes in the entryway. We have different storage solutions for each person, but all the shoes get put away here. My daughter has canvas bins that she stuffs her shoes in, underneath a bench in the entryway. My shoes are on a shoe holder inside one of the hall closets, and my husband keeps his shoes in cubbies. While we occasionally have shoes on the floor in this hall, it is usually contained to one or two pairs (usually mine or our daughter's, my husband is pretty good about putting his away - again with reducing visual clutter), it's simple enough to pick them up when the time comes. 
  • Our daughter doesn't have playdates on school days. Transitions are difficult for her, so interrupting her regular daily routine rarely goes well. This was a hard thing at first, when her neighborhood friends wanted to play with her and we had to say no. Now that I am back at school with her, it is less of a problem, and she gets to play with friends at the school while I finish up work in the afternoons. 
  • We try to make Saturday Eliana's chore day so that she has Sunday as a free day. Once she is done with her chores, she is free on Saturday to play with friends, etc. Typically, this means she has to clean her room, do her load of laundry, and put away dishes before she can do other things. We're not the most consistent on this, but we're getting there. :)
  • Friday night is family movie night. Eliana LOVES this tradition and looks forward to it. So do we. 
While these are not all the solutions we've implemented as a result of our different ADHD tendencies and coping mechanisms, they are enough to give me hope that it will be okay. Things are better than they were two years ago. We are more consistent than we were two years ago. We have more routines, more solutions, and more peace in our home. It's not easy, but it's getting better. And that's enough to chase the despair from my soul and give me renewed energy for the day ahead.