Help for Haiti

Help for Haiti
This organization has been in Haiti for many years. They are trustworthy.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Simple Truth

This video is inspirational as it describes how 19 year old Johnny, a grocery store bagger who has Down Syndrome, transformed the atmosphere around him through simple acts of service. Don't ever think that because your child is "just a bagger" or "just a _____" that their impact to touch lives is somehow lessened. Our special needs and struggling children can make a difference. Johnny's story demonstrates how his desire to share positive memories with the customers touched people and brought them back to his store again and again.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Default Answers

My children, like many who struggle with attention challenges, are very bright. This may not be the first impression they give, but they are smart in many ways and have learned to predict and anticipate adult expectations at times. For example, when my children have been to a friend's house or basically any activity where they've been out of my sight for five minutes or more, they know I will ask them what they've been up to. (I think of it as my "homeschooler hover"!) I noticed that over time they began to develop certain default answers they fell back on when they'd been in Sunday school or at AWANA. Even if they hadn't been paying attention, they managed to come up with some general answers they hoped were close enough to satisfy Mom's inquiring mind. If I asked them about the Sunday school lesson and what they had learned that day, they would respond with "Jesus?" When asked for a bit more detail they would add, "God? The Bible?" all with a hopeful expression on their faces, a questioning intonation, and a clear wish that their guesses would be accurate this time. I have to give them credit for selecting default answers that have a good probability of being correct given the context. It's a strategy I encourage them to use during schoolwork or test taking. I've taught them to utilize context clues, prior experience, and choose what seems to be the best answer based on what they know. By offering me their default answers, I'm going to recognize that they are generalizing a strategy rather than focus on the fact that they weren't highly attentive and are just taking their best shot at a response. Hey, they're going to be right some of the time, and they are trying!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Social and Life Skills Advice From Mr. T!

Sometimes it helps when our kids hear advice from someone other than Mom and Dad. Here are some short clips that pack a Mr. T. punch with blunt advice for improving social skills. Each of these is presented as a little poem delivered by Mr. T. The first is about being a good listener. The next one gives advice for procrastinators, followed by tips for making a good first impression. Next, Mr. T. gives suggestions for good hygiene and follows it up with a reminder for those who tend to monopolize conversations. Finally, Mr. T. promotes the value of perseverance for success. Actually, you may want to enjoy these out of earshot of your children, or you may hear them saying "I pity the fool!" Mr. T style. Then again, it could be used as a teaching tool to point out how you can express the right idea in the wrong way. In any case I hope you can extrapolate the good parts, folks, and enjoy the humor in these short clips.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Yesterday I added a wallpaper border in the master bathroom. I am a complete amateur with wallpaper, but considering that I can read directions and few people actually see that bathroom other than my immediate family members I decided to go for it. When my husband came home from work, I told him that there was a surprise upstairs. Earlier my 16 year old AD/HD daughter had walked in on me during the application process and saw me standing on the bathroom counter. She asked me what I was doing since she didn't notice the wallpaper, so I didn't tell Scott what the surprise was so he could have fun looking for it. How playful of me! AD/HD guys love that! When I heard him heading upstairs I followed him up to see his reaction to my surprise. He was standing with his hand on his hip, shaking his head and saying, "Well, it's kind of hard to miss this." Unfortunately, in an apparent attempt to out do my surprise, one of our cats had hurled her stomach contents across the carpet leaving her own surprise for us to find. Welcome home, honey! Surprise! Our room is the only one with carpet in the entire house, so Popcorntail perversely always pukes in that room. Anyway, that was definitely not the surprise I had in mind for my husband. As we were in the process of getting supplies to clean up after the cat, Scott noticed the wallpaper and actually seemed to like it. When you live with AD/HD, you often get unintentional surprises. For example, you may be surprised to find an empty milk carton that has been carefully placed back in the refrigerator. Why do they do this?!? Do they think you won't notice, or maybe will blame yourself? Likewise, you may be surprised upon receiving a letter from your local library that your child has not returned books you didn't even know they'd checked out and now they owe a substantial fine. You may be surprised, as I was just this morning, to find out that your child is having a sleepover at your house that very night - and the other parents have already agreed that it's okay. You might be surprised when listening to the old messages on your answering machine when you realize that the call you've been expecting actually did occur but your family didn't bother to let you know on the dry erase board that is right next to the phone for just such a purpose. Best of all, though, is when you are surprised because they DID remember your birthday or some special occasion. It is harder for them to plan ahead and remember things, so it means even more when they do it without repeated coaching from you. That's the good kind of surprise.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Who is a friend?

When are kids are small, we try to teach them what it means to be a good friend. When a child struggles with social skills it is difficult for them to discern who is actually behaving like a friend. My son, Josh, had great difficulty recognizing body language and tone of voice and often missed social cues. At times this was a blessing because it meant that he missed the facial expressions, unkind comments, and even blatant rejection that was frequently directed at him. I felt enough pain for both of us sometimes, I think. I remember so many incidents of Josh trying to connect with other kids and my trying to coach him so he would be more successful. One summer, years ago, Josh was probably 6 or 7 years old and we had gone to the community pool for the afternoon. He saw a boy about his age and approached him to see if he wanted to play. They exchanged a few sentences, and suddenly I saw the boy shove Josh as hard as he could into the deep end of the pool. Josh had only recently learned to swim and was not yet up to swimming in the deep end, and I ran to the side of the pool and pulled my spluttering son out of the water. There was a red hand print on his back from where he had been pushed. By then the other boy had run off, but I approached a life guard and made her look at the mark left on Josh and pointed out the boy who had left it. She said she knew him and would talk to him about it. Another attempt at a relaxing afternoon was superceded by this distressing incident. Josh and I talked about it at the time, trying to figure out what went wrong and how to avoid similar events in the future. It wasn't until years later that Josh was able to tell me more about what he was thinking that day. He said he'd really wanted to play with someone and that boy was also by himself and looked to be around the same age. He never did figure out why the boy shoved him into the deep end and took off. But Josh remembers what he was thinking as he was sinking down in the water. "Maybe if I make it back up we can still be friends." Wow. There was never any hint of friendliness from that boy toward Josh, and certainly propelling another child into the deep end of the pool without knowing if he can swim seems obviously hostile. But not to Josh, who didn't innately understand how a friend should act. For most children, an experience like that makes a huge impression and they have no desire to be around the one who rejected them. For Josh, it was just one more confusing experience in the confusing world of social interactions.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My friend, Shadow

We found him through a poster hung on the bulletin board at Big Bear.
“Mixed Lab/Boxer puppies. Free to a good home.”
As it turned out, he was priceless.

For fourteen years he was a part of our family.
He either traveled with us, or waited faithfully guarding our house for us until we returned home.
He never complained about anything, except for the not-so-subtle reminders that it was time to feed him. He usually waited for visitors to carry around his big, metal dish around the room, as if to say "Dog on strike! They never feed me!"

The days of playing fetch, or tug-of-war were over long ago. When we went for walks, you could tell that his spirit was much more vibrant and playful than his body would allow him to exhibit. Getting up the stairs was a burden and he sometimes needed a little help to surmount the challenge.

I knew the time was near a few months ago when a construction worker left the gate to the back yard open. My daughter let him out late at night to do his business, but then couldn't get him to come when she called. She woke me up at 3:00 am, because she was afraid that he had died out there. When I went out and found the gate open, I knew he was out running the neighborhood again. But this time was different. I walked around the block until I realized that I wouldn't find a black dog in pitch darkness, and he wouldn't hear my soft whistles. I went back to bed. He was barking to be let back in within an hour. When you're 81 in dog years I guess running wild just doesn't have the same appeal as it did when you were young.

His body was ravaged.
Five years ago the vet cut out a big tumor. The tests came back. It was cancerous. We didn't get it all. The damnable stuff came back; slowly, but inexorably, like....well, like a cancer. It was on his chest, which made it difficult to walk, or lay down, or climb, or run. But he never complained.
He started having seizures about a year ago. The vet said it was way beyond what he could analyze or treat and suggested we take him to the University Vet clinic. $800 later they wanted to do more tests: MRIs, CAT scans, consults with heart specialists. We took him home with no suggestions or treatment. He was glad to be home.
The worst was his incontinence. Usually during the night. In the morning, I would come downstairs and clean up the mess, with him standing nearby with an embarrassed & apologetic look on his face. Very undignified for such a handsome dog.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend told us about some vets that make house calls named, oddly enough, "House Calls." I made an appointment. Yesterday they came out. We started explaining everything that was going on with my dear friend. The more we talked, the clearer it was that there would be no medication that would clear this up; no pill or special food. Then she mentioned that the arthritis was probably making it very difficult for him as well. Arthritis. I hadn't considered that. It would certainly explain why his back legs shook when he was just standing there. And why he seemed to sink, lower and lower as he walked by.
The vet gave us some options. Pain meds, seizure meds; but they all had some nasty side effects.

There would be no hospice, or pain management. He had suffered in silence. And he had seemed very content, even if he only got five minutes of petting or scratching a day in return for 23 hours, 55 minutes of pain, he was willing to take that deal. But we had to decide for him that it was a bad deal.

The vet helped him to go to sleep for the last time. They shaved a small place on his leg and started an IV. We were petting & loving on him to the very end.

Some things God allows to be a mystery to us, unanswered. I hope that when I arrive in heaven, I will find my Lord Jesus waiting to welcome me. And you will be by His side.

Goodbye, my friend

Friday, July 10, 2009

Febreeze Rice...Yum!?!

My son, Josh, has hypersensitivity to smells as part of his sensory processing profile. He used to lift his plate up to his nose to sniff his food before eating it. This happened even with familiar and favorite foods. Fortunately as he got older he was able to inhibit this behavior, or at least do it so surreptitiously that no one noticed. Once I cooked a chicken drumstick in the microwave, and Josh wrinkled his nose and announced that it smelled like our dog Shadow when he is wet. Wet dog never smells good! Consequently, Josh wouldn't eat the drumstick, and his description of the smell grossed out his sisters so much that for months they all refused to eat chicken. Last night I made cilantro rice with fresh cilantro. This recipe also included orange marmalade for a taste of citrus. The main course was to be served over the cilantro rice, but I noticed that Josh skipped the rice. I asked him why, and he grinned and told me he had sniffed out the rice but that it smelled like Febreeze or something so he didn't want to eat it. Josh is not a picky eater, but when a smell reminds him of something non-edible he can't bring himself to eat it. I'm guessing that the orange citrus smell is what reminded him of cleaners, so I can see why he wouldn't want to eat it. We like fresh food, but not "cleanser fresh" smelling food. The rest of us didn't get the Febreeze impression, so we ate the rice. I didn't push it with Josh, because he wasn't complaining about it and we all have foods we don't care for and choose not to eat. Plus, I imagine the Febreeze rice for Josh would be like asking me to eat something that smells like bleach or Pinesol. I'm just glad he is able to tell me why some foods are o.k. with him and others are rejected.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

9,096 Days!

Next month is my 25th wedding anniversary. Months ago my husband, Scott, approached me with the idea of taking a vacation and revisiting all the places we went to on our honeymoon. This time we would have our three kids with us, and I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. Since part of our honeymoon was spent in Canada, we would all need passports. Passports can take a while to process. Scott printed out the forms and then...they got lost and forgotten and now there is no way we could get passports in time for our anniversary trip. Now at this point some of you probably think I'm angry and upset. But remember, Scott and I have been married almost 25 years now, and this is neither surprising nor unusual in a relationship with an AD/HD adult. I could have taken over the planning myself, but I was busy and left it up to Scott. By doing that, I knew there was a possibility that the details wouldn't be tended to and I still couldn't muster up the energy to follow-through with him to make sure everything got done on time. Yesterday I asked Scott if he would be o.k. with my planning something simpler for us since we can't make the Canada trip, and he agreed. So I am making plans for a day trip or long weekend, depending on the kids' schedules for classes and work. It's not that Scott isn't enthusiastic or romantic. He remembered that this is the year of our 25th anniversary. He just isn't good at planning by himself, or following through on his great ideas. He is a kind and intelligent man and a wonderful husband, and I won't diminish that by being disappointed when his AD/HD interferes with his intentions once again. This was an inadvertent lapse, not deliberate sabotage. If you ignore the AD/HD factor, it can lead to bitterness and resentment. If you know your spouse struggles with AD/HD, however, it always has to be factored in for the health of your relationship. Planning and organizing a trip may be outside of your spouse's skill set, as it typically is for Scott. Don't let that be the defining element in your view of your partner, but just one of many things that are true of him or her. Today I got an email from Scott wishing me a happy anniversary. Is this another AD/HD moment, since our anniversary is not until August 11th? No! Scott's anniversary message informed me that we have been married exactly 9,096 days today. Now that's romantic!

Monday, July 06, 2009

A Capital Idea!

Do you remember learning the states and capitals? For a child who has trouble with memorization it can seem overwhelming to try and remember all 50 states and capitals. Not only that, but we'd like our children to be able to find them on a map. More memorization! My children suggested that perhaps we should move to a small island so they would have less to memorize. While I understand their memory challenges, I still wanted them to learn the information. I found a wonderful states and capitals game that used cartoon pictures to help visually associate the state with its capital, and also depicted where the state was located. (You can see the game at The visual cues helped tremendously and soon my children were making the associations and began committing the facts to memory. I still needed to review the game cards now and then to help with retention, but the pictures always cued them to the correct response. One time I was doing a crossword puzzle and couldn't remember the capital of Alabama. Knowing that my kids had learned all the states and capitals I hoped that my son could help me out. I called out to Josh in the next room and asked, "What's the capital of Alabama?" His immediate response came back, "A!" I thought he was saying, "Eh?" since with his auditory processing issues he often needed repetition. So I repeated my question, and got the same response only this time with that querying inflection as if he was beginning to suspect it was some kind of trick question. When I realized he was telling me the capital letter for Alabama, I started laughing. Josh was not trying to be funny, he was attempting to answer what had to seem like a pretty dumb question for me to be asking him. He is pretty literal and impulsive and said the first thing that came to mind. Technically he was right about the capital of Alabama being the letter "A". Bless his heart for trying to answer my question even though it didn't make sense to him. When I explained that I actually wanted to know the state's capital city, he was able to supply that answer as well. We joke about always being able to tell a state's capital as long as we know what letter the state name starts with!