Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Clearing out the Clutter

December is crazy.

I know this isn't news. The holidays take it out of the best of us.

But to me - for me - it's more than the holidays. It's the fact that the holidays coincide with exams. The weekend before the weekend before Christmas - you know, that time when you should be running around finishing things up so that the focus the weekend before Christmas is on family and not on wrapping, baking, or shopping - is now the focus of intense study. With Dylan's grades such as they are, that meant A LOT of studying. So there went that final bit of shopping. No, I didn't get my wrapping done. And forget about baking.

Don't get me wrong - it was the right thing to do. I can't say that the effort was directly proportional to the results, but it was still the right thing to do. But it made for a somewhat frustrating weekend, a bit a nightmarish week, and then a truly frantic weekend preparing for Christmas.

Were there ways I could've avoided all that? Many blogs and websites will give you a resounding "Yes!" I could've done a lot of that shopping and wrapping and even baking much earlier in the fall. But the fact of the matter is that I was completely buried with work earlier in the fall, so that really wasn't realistic in the life I was living.

So. There we were. Or I was. Weekend before Christmas. Craziness. Wrapping. A little bit of leftover shopping. Christmas cards (I'll admit, they are not even done yet!). Church activities. Family activities. It was nuts.

Again, it was well worth it and this time, the effort was much more in proportion with the results on Christmas morning. (Big sigh!)

We are now left with the detritus of Christmas day surrounding us. Bags, baubles, and bits. Legos scattered far and wide. Boxes half opened everywhere. Time to clear the clutter.
Note: This is NOT my house!

The thing is, I know that it's time to clear out more than the physical clutter, although that is a big part of it. It's amazing to me that seven years after losing almost everything to Katrina, we have SO MUCH stuff. Today, I cleared out some of it - a massive amount of clothing I wasn't (or couldn't) wear. It was sad and felt good all at the same time. Our church's homeless program will benefit from it greatly.

And I know it's just one step. There's more - much more - clutter to clear out. Clutter that's holding me back physically. And clutter of mind that's holding me back mentally. It has to go. 2013 has to be a completely different year than 2012. I need to parent more effectively. I need to tend to my own needs better. We need to manage our funds more closely. We need to eat more healthfully and get more activity, all of us.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Four-Legged Problem

Something I haven't talked about much here but is intimately connected with me is my sheer, unadulterated love of dogs.

I have loved dogs for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, our next-door neighbor had a super mean German Shepherd who would come running up to the fence growling and snarling.

As soon as I could walk, I would go right up to him and scare my mother half to death in the process.

As I set out on an independent, post-college life, I got a dog and a van and traveled cross country (more on that some other day).

Within six months of getting together, RockStar and I had adopted a Golden Retriever and our husky arrived less than a year later.

I am physically unable to avoid meeting dogs wherever I go. I joke that my mission in life is to meet every dog on the planet. I'm literally drawn to them like a magnet.

Which is why it is so incredibly disconcerting to have adopted a dog and to not be in love with her.

This is Cassidy:

(along with RockStar and Dylan).

We adopted her two weeks ago. Best guess is that she is a bloodhound/basset hound mix. I want to love her.  But she bites and when you tell her no, she stands up to you and barks indignantly, like "Who are you to tell me what to do." We've been doing everything recommended, but nothing takes. She is as defiant as ever. 

Keep in mind that I did NOT want a puppy. I like to adopt dogs who are a little bit older.  For one thing, everyone adopts the puppies. They don't last in the shelter! For another, when they are a little older, they've worked these puppy issues out.

Admittedly, it's more than that. This just isn't the type of breed mix I would have chosen. I like a BIG dog, the bigger the better. Although her feet suggest size, her little legs tell you that she will only ever get so big. I want a big lug to lean on me.

With everything we have going on here: a hyperactive kid who is failing and falling behind, a rock 'n' roll schedule to deal with, scouts, etc., a biting dog who wants to be Top Dog is so not what we need! I didn't pick her out (RockStar did) and while I was "consulted" it was not in a "let's talk about this, what kind of dog do we want" kind of way. It was a "here's a video, isn't she great, I'm in love with her, Dylan really wants a puppy" kind of way.

I feel like an idiot for going along with it all. But like so often, I do just go's easier being Switzerland and not having too many opinions or being selective in the things I do have opinions on. Still, who do you think is coming home at lunch to let her out? Who took her to the shelter for her final puppy shots? Whose been calling breeders and trainers to ask about her wild ways?

I want to love her.  If she would just stop biting everyone and everything and - more importantly - trying to be the Alpha dog, maybe it would be okay. I have never abandoned a dog and I do not want to start now.

(c) The Argonne Chronicles 2012  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

It's never easy to know the right thing to do when you are an ADHD parent. Okay may be good enough, but doesn't there always seem to be something better out there?

Like most kids with ADHD, Dylan has been on a variety of medications since he was first diagnosed. Daytrana, Metadate, Focalin, and Vyvanse. He was actually on Vyvanse twice. The first time we tried it, he had terrible letdown when the meds wore off. This time, it seemed to have worked adequately well. Not as well as the first month of Metadate, but that's a nirvana we will probably never see again.

So the Vyvanse would keep him relatively focused and lasted a fair amount of the day, but something was still missing. His math and social studies grades have remained in the D-F range, and his recall for what goes on in class has been minimal.

Now, I fully realize there is no drug to address executive function deficits, but I cannot help wondering if he could just focus better and longer, maybe he could remember a bit more and better understand what he learns.

Finding a psychiatrist has been something of a challenge. Our pediatrician, whom I love, didn't seem too enthusiastic about our going to one (afraid of losing the business? I don't know.). The first one we went to would routinely be two to two-and-a-half hours late for appointments, which was unacceptable. We were ready to see a psychologist with prescription privileges until she left the practice. And no one - no one - seemed to be on our insurance.

So we went with a recommended doc not on our insurance. Sigh...

As expensive as it is, she's been wonderful. We've only seen her twice but she is very straight-forward and includes Dylan in on everything in a very age-appropriate way.

Her approach is "Let's try it and see." She would rather try something to find a better choice than stick it out with a less-than-ideal option. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and you can always go back is the way she operates. I like it.

First, she had us try a higher dose of the Vyvanse. You would think dose A is good, bigger dose B is better, right? Not so much. He was less focused. The same thing, actually, had happened when we had upped the Metadate.

Two weeks ago, we were set to try Straterra. She said it doesn't work for at least half of kids, but for those whom it does work for, it works great. Worth trying except...we couldn't get Dylan to swallow pills. It's mental rather than physical, but you can't exactly make someone swallow something.

A week later, she put Dylan on Tenex compounded by a local pharmacy as a liquid. Dylan balked but we were able to get it in him. As expected, he was very sleepy the first few days. Just as he started feeling better, the dose went up to two times a day and it was back to feeling tired and out of it. The doc encouraged patience...but in the end Dylan couldn't take it. He said he felt "dumb" and that he did worse in class than when he was on no medication.

So, we're back to Vyvanse. Only by the time we pulled off of the Tenex it was a Friday and we only had TWO capsules left. I didn't realize it until Saturday when one of those was gone. So we went the whole weekend without meds (challenging but doable). Today, I gave him some short-acting Ritalin I had from an old bump-up afternoon prescription for him. It seemed like a good idea...until we got home when the scream fest began. NO homework got done tonight and we had lots of yelling, drama, and accusations.

Tomorrow, he'll have the remaining Vyvanse and tomorrow afternoon we see the psychiatrist again and can get a refill prescription. It seems like "halleluia" but the reality it's just back to what we have had. We want better, but it could be that all we can have for now is okay and good enough. It's not fair that a bright boy with so much potential can't focus, remember, or retain enough to have even a moderate amount of success; that he daily feels like the "dumbest kid in the class."

It's not fair, but I guess right now not fair but adequate has to be good enough.

(c) 2012 The Argonne Chronicles

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Life as a Lamborghini

I was thinking about Dylan’s challenges with school and homework today, how frustrating it is for him, how difficult it is for him to get through his day, complete his school tasks, and take in and remember the information the teachers are trying to share with him. I’ve been trying to refocus my efforts with him to find a way to encourage him but build up his self-esteem at the same time. Help him to believe in himself, even when signs sometimes point to the contrary.

That’s when I suddenly realized what Dylan is.

He is a high-performance sports car, like a Lamborghini or a Ferrari.

Now, most people I know would love to have fine Italian sports car like that. I know I had a poster of a Lamborghini in my college dorm room. These are desirable cars.

But as desirable as they are, they are not ideal in all situations.

You see, Dylan as a Lamborghini is single-mindedly focused on getting to his destination. He wants to drive FAST; 120mph fast. He’s built for it and that speed will get him to his destination in no time. It’s not that he cannot focus, but that his focus is on ONE THING.

Unfortunately, his tasks are not focused on that same one thing. The goal is still to get “there,” but, in order to get there, he has to fulfill other tasks.

For starters, he has to make a whole bunch of deliveries. Lamborghinis don’t even have trunks, do they? So he’s got to stow the packages that need to be delivered in the passenger seat and even tie some to the roof. So right there, he’s slowed down, because a package on the roof wreaks havoc on aerodynamics. Plus he’s got to make all these stops! He doesn’t want to do it and he doesn’t really even get how to get all these packages on board efficiently. He might even lose one off the roof and have to turn back.

Then there are the passengers! He’s already got space problems thanks to the packages, but before he can get to his destination, there are people he needs to pick up and drop off. Where are they and how is he going to fit them in? He doesn’t even like some of them!

Did I mention that the roads are not all super-speed highways? Nope.  Some are city roads with plenty of stop signs and traffic signals.  Lamborghinis hate stop lights, haven’t you noticed? You can’t pick up any kind of speed if you have to stop every 4-6 blocks! Oh, and some of the roads are horrible. Way out of the way and bumpy, full of pot holes and speed bumps. Not ideal for something low-slung and meant for speed.

Given all that, it’s not a wonder that he gets grumpy sometimes!

During tonight’s meltdown (over social studies), I explained my theory. And he loved it! It made total sense to him, and helped him to see that while ADHD slows him down sometimes and makes some things difficult, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sports cars are great! But there’s a reason why there are so many Toyota Camrys on the road. It may not be flashy and it may not be able to go 120mph, but they will get you there in a reasonable time, you’ll get there safely, and you can take a bumps and stop lights a whole lot better. More kids and more adults are Camrys than Lamborghinis. But the Lamborghinis are special. You have to treat them well and take care of them, and they do end up in the shop more often than the old reliable Camry, but no one – NO ONE – ever put of a poster of a Camry on their dorm room wall. 

I know I didn’t.

(c) 2012 The Argonne Chronicles

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Creeping back in...

If you are a regular follower of this blog, I haven’t given you much to read lately, have I?  Sorry about that. I have to claim professional obligations. While I love this blog for its mutual therapeutic properties, when push came to shove, work had to come first. 

I work for an academic unit of a university and we were celebrating a major milestone. Two years had gone into the planning of it, much of it directed by me, and we had finally come to the big weekend extravaganza! Seminars, luncheons, and a gala that had all been concepts became reality.

Reality also involved nearly 80 hours of work a week for the few weeks leading up to it. I don’t have to tell you how challenging it was to not only work that much and that hard, but to keep up with parenting my challenging guy at the same time! 

And did I mention I had to fly to a conference in San Francisco in the midst of all that? Yeah, not easy.

But the event came and went (successfully, I might add!) and I am  s l o w l y  recapturing my life. Unfortunately, I’m doing so just as the holiday season is revving up!  While I took this week off to recharge, it’s been more of a reheat…as in cooking, that is! Regardless, it’s been great to be in my own home with no work deadlines looming overhead.

I can’t promise a complete turnaround in my blogging, but I do hope to get back into it, share some of what’s been going on with us, and, honestly, spend more time with myself!

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all! I hope you are as thankful for your special kid(s) as I am for my easy to love, but challenging boy.
 (c) 2012 The Argonne Chronicles

Friday, September 28, 2012

You are not alone!

Easy to Love but Hard to Raise
I had always intended to have reviews of books and products I have read or tried on this blog, but so far I think my only review has been of a movie.

Until now...

If you have been an ADHD parent for any length of time, chances are you have seen the book "Easy to Love, but Hard to Raise."  I'm here to tell you that you must buy this book right now!

The folks over at DRT Press contacted me over the summer to ask if I wanted to be included in the book's "blog tour."  I was very honored and thrilled for the opportunity to read the book, and even more thrilled that it arrived just before we went on vacation for a week at the beach so I had time to really dive into it.

You know that moms are consummate researchers, whether it's about feeding, sleeping, natural childbirth, diet, or a disorder. So much of that kind of research, however, can make you feel like you are doing it wrong; you are the only one who ____ (fill in the blank with your own special guilt); you just can't handle it.

"Easy to Love" is the first book I've read that helps you see that you are not alone and that you aren't doing it all wrong, or at least any different than someone else in your position would do.

The book is a compilation of stories by many, many moms and at least one dad. Some of the stories will comfort you. Some might even scare you, especially if you have a long way to go on this journey. And some will relieve you when you realize how much more challenging it could be.

You especially learn that there are as many ways to raise an easy to love (ETL) child as there are ETL parents!

It is surely difficult to raise a child with diabetes, or cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy, but all of those are at least somewhat obvious conditions and no one will point a finger at you for causing it or for the outcome. The diagnosis for ETL kids is so often invisible; therefore your parenting - especially what goes on behind the scenes - is also invisible. When your child acts out, you are a bad parent. When your child can't write an essay, you are too permissive. When your child is bossy, causing him or her to lose friends, obviously you sheltered him and let him have his way too much.

This book erases all those negative thoughts and myths and replaces them. It shows how other parents just like you also feel judged and feel guilty. And survive.

Probably my favorite part about the book are the short blurbs after each story telling you about the author. Often in those short, italicized blurbs, you learn how the child in the story did overcome his or her challenges, at least the ones in the story. You hear of ETL kids growing up and going out on their own, which at times seems impossible to imagine when you are in the thick of it.

We need to hear these stories. We need to know that while it's tough, it's a journey we will get through. We need to know that we are doing the right thing and that if we believe in our children and believe in ourselves, we'll reach our own, right conclusion to our own story.

You can learn more about the book and about the wonderfully supportive Easy to Love community at their blog site. The site provides links to purchase the book directly from the publisher or through popular booksellers like Amazon or  You'll also find a link to their Facebook page which is a treasure trove of daily encouragement.

While I was provided with a copy of the book reviewed, all reviews and comments are my own. (c) Argonne Chronicles, 2012.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Farewell to a Princess


Although I normally write about my one Trouble Child, I have another... or I did until last night. This Trouble Child didn't keep me up with homework or talk back or refuse to take a bath.  Her special brand of trouble involved escaping and running through the streets of our neighborhood and digging her way through couches to escape thunderstorms.  Here is my remembrance of her.

It is with much sadness that I report the passing of Princess Nikita of the Great White North.  Nikki, as she was known to family, friends, and acquaintances, was an independent but loving spirit who never met a stranger, human or canine.  Rumors abounded about her early life as a princess in a Siberian ice palace, where she had countless servants meeting her every need.  How she went from a life of luxury to life on the streets, no one knows, but her family is grateful that she found her way to them.

She was employed throughout her New Orleans life in pest control, a job she undertook with great zest, instilling fear in the hearts of rodents, birds, and lizards everywhere.  In later years, she also did some acting, portraying Snowball, mascot of our local school.  In that role, she appeared at events such as the Husky Fun Run, the groundbreaking for the new school building facility, and the building dedication, an event attended by numerous local dignitaries. She reveled in the opportunity to meet her fans, but always shunned the paparazzi.

Nikki was also known for her singing, wailing melodies that were haunting yet beautiful.  In the last year of her life, she had largely given up singing although she still did occasionally say a few words in husky speak. Throughout her life, her family encouraged her vocalizations, often joining in with her, comforting her and making her family feel more like a pack.

She enjoyed late night forays to the Saturn Bar in the Bywater, where she would sit at the bar, drink martinis, and smoke cigarettes. In fact, she enjoyed independent forays anywhere, choosing to slip past unsuspecting guests as they entered the front door or dig out from her backyard to pursue adventures far and wide. Nothing was more fun to her than being chased by family member!

She leaves her loving parents and her boy, Dylan, whom she loved from the moment she met him, choosing to believe that her parents had brought him home especially for her. She joins her big brother Oakley, a gregarious golden retriever who preceded her in death five years ago. She will be missed by many and a certain window on our street will look lonely for the lack of a watchful husky.

Donations in her memory can be made to the Louisiana SPCA, where her family found her, or simply choose to adopt rather than buy. So many beautiful animals like Nikki need homes.  Until there are none, adopt one and make your house a home for a homeless dog…or a princess. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Primal Scream

You would think with the Spark of Hope and all that things would be on the upswing. And maybe they are, but I guess no path is without its bumps.

It was one of those mornings. You moms know what I mean. Arguments every second of it. Practically dressing the child to get him out the door. Running back inside for something. Arguing on the way to school.

It shouldn't have been.

I told warned Dylan that I had to be at a meeting at 8:00am and that he had studying to do in the morning. Of course, he didn't think about that at 6:00am when I first turned his light on, but he also didn't think much of it when I finally got him vertical and he started getting dressed.

He did "study" as in read the words on the page, but I doubt strongly he was prepared to read it in class from memory (which he was supposed to).

I warned him again that TV (which wasn't even supposed to be on until he was dressed and had fully studied) had to be off at 7:20am.  At that point, all that should've been left would've been to brush his teeth. In reality, there were shoes to get on, a belt to find, and the teeth to be brushed.

I said I wanted to be out the door by 7:25am at the latest. Of course it was after 7:30am when we finally got out. 

I did harp, I'll admit. Dylan's response was, "Well, you know I'm not the fastest boy on the planet!" which launched a discussion argument over whether that was an excuse or not. (NOT, when you've been warned every step of the way what is coming next and why.)

When he finally got out of the car, I lost it.  Alone, by myself, but I lost it.  Screamed.  And screamed.  And screamed.

When I was in college, "the primal scream" was very popular. They even had primal scream events when everyone went to the green and screamed to release stress.  I thought it was supposed to help, but it just made my throat sore, and may have primed me for more screaming later.

That additional screaming occurred hours later when I realized I had forgotten to give Dylan his meds. I really lost it that time.  Totally broke down. Cried, screamed, yelled, you name it. For at least 30-45 minutes. Fortunately, I had a surprise reprieve from work and could do so. 

The stress - so much stress - has obviously been building up. Dylan's ADHD. Lots of negative stress at work. A less-than-stellar relationship with RockStar. Worries over money, nutrition, weight, my mom, cub scouts, our dog, our roof, you name it.

Now, I'm not a worrier by trademark. But a lot has been going on. Too much and I cannot get a handle on any of it. Or rather I try to get a handle on all of it, and everything suffers.

I don't know what happens next.  I read Tsh's blog letter to her 15-year-old self and I know I am feeling just what she describes toward the end when she more-or-less breaks down in Greece. My only question is:  when do I get the plane ticket to Santorini?!

Seriously, something has to give, but I honestly have no idea what it will be. I'm, gulp, talking to my pastor tomorrow (something I've never done - talk to clergy about a problem and get pastoral care). And I made an appointment to talk to a social worker next week. And I'm "talking" here. I feel like burrowing under my covers for...forever. But I know that is not an option.  I'm just so tired of being responsible for what feel like everything.

If you've read this far, thank you for listing to my rant. When I was screaming and crying I kept yelling, "I have no one to talk to." It was like all this stuff was coming out. Stuff that apparently has been bothering me, under the surface, but has been hidden by all the stuff I do.

No one primal screams anymore.  When I looked it up, I had to hunt for it amid bands with that name. Considering how it turned out, I don't recommend it. When you feel like screaming, please, just stop and get a latté or something. Don't unleash the furies like I did.