Saturday, August 17, 2013

We can rebuild him. He is the Six Billion Star Man.

My son. A boy barely registering in self-esteem. Repeating fifth grade. Report card in the dumps.

We can rebuild him. We have the tech-nature-y. He is The Six Billion Star Man.

If you weren't a child in the '70s, you might completely lost by the above description. But if you did grow up in the '70s, you remember the set-up from The Six Million Dollar Man, a fictional account of the world's first bionic man. (There was a sequel series, to give equal time to both genders, called The Bionic Woman.

After retrieving Dylan from SOAR camp, I feel sort of like he's the Six Million Dollar Man. He does feel at least somewhat rebuilt. It seems as though spending three and a half weeks in the woods amongst a billion stars has done a lot to push the reset button.

Is everything perfect? Do I have nothing more to worry about? Hardly. But he seems more aware of his moods and less prone to overreact. I was a nervous wreck about him going back to the same school, repeating fifth grade. Yet, the night before school started, he said he was sort of looking forward to going back! I was pretty speechless.

Now, we're only two days in. The real bulk of schoolwork hasn't started. But I still can't help feeling excited about the changes in him.

He has about a million mosquito bites on his legs, but he sees them as a badge of courage. He's eager to tell you about whitewater rafting, and rappelling, and tubing.

I had worried, too, when he left that he'd be miserably homesick for the entire time. He was homesick. But he got past it and now he's looking forward to Boy Scout camping trips, knowing he can handle it.

I even worried that I'd get a call asking me to come get him. However, at our debrief, we were told how he approached every day with a smile on his face, eager to try more. He got praise for his willingness to work hard in academics. His counselor said he was the only one who wanted to read the interpretive signs in the parks and museum they visited.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, wonders if ADHD is really nature deficit disorder. While I don't think Dylan's problems could be solved with a weekly dose of nature, I think nature is a great place for kids like him. We could never afford it, but SOAR even has a school-year academy where kids are in school two weeks on/two weeks "off" when they go on nature expeditions that tie into their schoolwork. How perfect for these visual and kinesthetic learners! I wish regular schools could learn a lesson or two from a school like this. It would certainly be a better idea than Common Core and endless testing.

The send up of all this is that SOAR was a roaring success. Dylan learned skills and more importantly learn things about himself he can carry with him as part of his personal tool kit.

Kind of like a bionic power pack that keeps the Six Billion Star Man going. 

(c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

My child is SOARing

It has been 19 days since I last saw my son. We have never been separated this long, and even when we have, it's usually because I have been away on business. This time he has been away.

After a lot of thought and consideration, we decided to send him to SOAR camp. SOAR is: Success Oriented Achievement Realized. For a lot of reasons, Dylan has been on a downward spiral and I felt as though we needed to do something dramatic to break it. I want him to be able to believe in himself and be able to persevere through things that are challenging.

There's no real clearinghouse for finding what we were looking for. No algorithm to plug in the variables and get an output that would give us the ideal choices customized for our situation. Basically, we had to go on gut instinct.

SOAR is in North Carolina, so it was not an easy decision to make. There is a local school that has a camp for kids with learning disabilities. But it was just a week and only half days. I just didn't see what five days at three hours a day was going to do (plus there was the issue of who would pick him up at noon every day?).

This is not an actual SOAR pic, but camp there does include
rock climbing, backpacking, white water rafting, and more

SOAR has been in the business nearly 40 years. The executive director, himself, has struggled with ADHD and learning disabilities, as have his kids. On top of that, Penny Williams, the original founder of A Mom's View of ADHD, attended the family weekend program and was blown away. All of that was very promising.

Generally, when I told people that Dylan was going to camp for 26 days their mouths dropped open. Some said they could never send their kids away for that long. Others recovered and agreed that it sounded like a good idea. The best response, however, came from the owner of the occupational therapy center where Dylan has gone for OT. She pointed out that it takes 21 days to form a habit. He just gets five extra to confirm it!

I heard nothing at first. Kids aren't really allowed to call and parents can't just pick up the phone and call to talk to their kids, either. You can send letters and emails; just no calls. And I get it. In fact, mid-way through the program, when kids are scheduled to call home, a coworker asked why they had to mess up a good thing?  In other words, if everything was going along fine and Dylan had gotten over any homesickness, why mess with that?

I understood her comment only too well, but I was also looking forward to talking to him. And he sounded great! Like he's having a blast! The counselor said that he did have some homesickness at first but they let him work through it. Perfect!

Dylan's program is Academic Discovery, which combines classroom learning with adventure activities. He didn't have too much to say about the academics, which concerns me, but I'm hoping that the influence is deeper than even he realizes. We'll see when fifth grade starts all over again in a few weeks.

For now, I just cannot wait to see him and hug him!  I'm glad that he had this opportunity thanks to some funds from his grandmother and that we had the opportunity to give it to him.

(c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

Link to a great resource on building your child's self esteem

I've mentioned before how much I love the Pragmatic Mom blog. Today, Mia has guest blogger Faigie Kobre talking about self-esteem in kids, something every parent of a child with ADHD struggles with. These are kids who are so often told what they do wrong but don't hear enough about what they do right.

Faigie gives some concrete ideas to help build esteem and the best part is she tells us that no matter your child's age "it's not too late!" There's lots of good, meaty info and I encourage you to check it out!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

10 ADHD Evacuation Tips

The first tropical storm of the season blew through Florida last week. Tornados have wreaked havoc in Oklahoma and elsewhere. Then there have been the freak thunder storms, fires, and other catastrophes impacting other parts of the country. No matter where you are, it’s a good idea to think about what you would do if you had to evacuate.

Here in the Gulf South, we are no strangers to evacuation. I hadn’t lived here a year before my first evacuation and Dylan was not quite 2 the first time we evacuated with him. Of course, I didn’t know about ADHD yet. While I’ve heard plenty of parents say that their ADHD kids have been fussy and grumpy since birth that was definitely not Dylan’s M.O. For his first evacuation (Hurricane Ivan), we spent a whopping 16 hours in two separate vehicles driving from New Orleans to Lafayette, LA. Keep in mind that a typical drive to Lafayette takes less than three hours, so, yes, this was a miserably long trip. Dylan slept through almost the whole thing and when he didn't sleep, he babbled to himself and watched what was going on outside the window.

We’ve evacuated a few other times as a family, most notably for Katrina. For that monster storm, we thankfully bugged out of town two days ahead of time, sparing us from the extremes of both danger and traffic.

Evacuating is not for the faint of heart but it’s the right thing to do. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If catastrophe is heading your way and you can avoid it, I recommend it. You might lose some time and you’ll likely spend some money, but it’s better than losing your life or the life of a loved one.  Here are a few tips:

Before Catastrophe Hits   

  1.  Know When. Have a benchmark for when you’ll evacuate. For a hurricane, is it Category 1 in the Gulf? Cat 3? In the Cone of Possibility or something more likely? Three days away? One? For a tornado, which involves a much quicker decision making process, there will be different benchmarks. Same thing with fires.

    Everyone has a different level of risk tolerance. Know yours. Know that waiting for higher risk often means more crowded highways, less available gas, less of chance that you’ll actually make it out of town before catastrophe hits. If being in a car is difficult for your child, plan to leave early.
  2. Have a Plan. When you go, where are you going? Sometimes you can’t predict which way the storm will come. Have contingencies. For Hurricane Gustave a few years ago, we booked hotel rooms both East and West of New Orleans. I encouraged a fellow member of our church to do the same. He said he wanted to wait until he knew which way the storm was going. By the time he evacuated, all the hotels were booked and he ended up driving for 24 hours straight before sleeping in his car, along with his wife who has an anxiety condition. That could be nightmarish for a child with ADHD or other conditions including anxiety, autism, and sensory processing disorder. 
  3. Book a Room. Don’t count on finding a hotel on the side of the road. Everyone’s way ahead of you, unless you’ve left really early. I generally try to book something when a storm enters the Gulf. Know the cancellation policy and you can always cancel ahead of time. When necessary, I’ve paid for a night when I still wasn’t sure just for peace of mind. Having a hotel room reserved is especially necessary if you are traveling with pets. It also gives you a destination, so you can tell your sequential thinker where you are headed.
  4. Plan for Meds. When we evacuated for Katrina, we figured we’d be gone for a few days and then we would come back, pick up a few limbs, and get back to normal. Return ended up being four months away; normal took a whole lot longer. I can only imagine how much of a hassle it might’ve been had meds been an issue, especially since stimulants don’t have automatic refills. If there’s a better than 50% chance you might evacuate, see if your doc will write you an extra prescription to tide you over until you get back (or until you find a new doc in your temporary secondary home).
  5. Bring Important Papers and Sentimental Items. Along with insurance documents, birth certificates, and your child's psychoeducational evaluation and 504 or IEP, let your child bring some of their favorite things. You never know when disaster will really strike. Short term, they will need the comfort and familiarity, and if the worst happens, they’ll have some of the things that are meaningful for them.  I know this first hand.

During Evacuation
  1. Have Car Activities. Just as with any long car trip, plan to keep your child entertained. I’m very lucky that Dylan is a phenomenal traveler. We have literally considered selling everything and buying a mobile home since Dylan’s behavior is very consistently good while traveling. That said, I always have a bag of tricks ready. When he was younger, this usually involved inexpensive dollar store games and toys that were new to him but were small and weren’t valuable. These days, it might be a new graphic novel or a new ap on my iPhone. I’m not a fan of TV in the car, but if there ever was a time to have it, this would be it. 
  2. Stay Hydrated. But not too hydrated. Make sure everyone – especially the kids – drink enough fluids, but not so much that you have to stop at every rest area and large tree along the way. Dehydration can hasten and exacerbate melt downs.
  3. Follow Routines. As much as you can, keep to a normal time schedule so your child won’t get hungry and will feel some semblance of normalcy on the road.
  4. Overlook (Some) Bad Behavior. Evacuation heightens everything and even with your efforts to keep your routine, the situation will be anything but routine. Expect some difficulty dealing with it expressed through back talk or bad behavior. Only address things that cannot be ignored.
  5. Plan What Happens After You Stop. Dylan slept through that 16-hour marathon drive to Lafayette. When we arrived, I had literally burst a blood vessel in my eye from peering through the windshield so intensely all night long but Dylan was fresh as a daisy, ready to GO. As tired as I was, I had to drive around looking for a playground where he could burn off some energy.
If you can, share driving duties so that someone will be awake enough to take on parenting duties when you arrive. For the Ivan evacuation, we were in two vehicles since we had two dogs and a child, and the camper top we had ordered for the truck hadn’t arrived in time. (The truth was that it had arrived in time – twice – but the company didn’t measure it right – both times.) 

Finally, try to make it fun. You’ll be stressed and so will your child, but it can also be an adventure. Think outside the box – if you can afford it, maybe you can evacuate to a resort or at least a motel with a pool. Spend some time seeing the sights. Evacuating can be a pain and it can be a hassle. But if you’ve got to do it, you might as well enjoy at least some of it.

(c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013

Thursday, June 6, 2013

From Moms Charlotte: Life as a mom of a child with ADHD

Julie Greer McGrath launched an 8-week series this week on Moms Charlotte.  I look forward to reading the rest of her tale. Unfortunately, you have the typical naysayers. When will the stigma end? 

LD Navigator

The National Center for Learning Disabilities has just released the LD Navigator.  It's a tool designed for pediatricians, but it's great for anyone who wants to learn more about diagnosing learning disabilities. It has a great interactive design!

Visit to see it in person!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

From Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities: Changing Times: Challenges for Kids with ADHD

I subscribe to many, many blogs and newsletters related to ADHD. I thought this was a great post on Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities.

Changing Times: Challenges for Kids with ADHD

By Peg Dawson

A generation ago, children with ADHD went undiagnosed; they were often labeled “lazy” or “troublemaker,” and some dropped out of school while many struggled to get through. But today more children are at risk for school failure due to attention problems. Why? Because the skills we expect children to master and the work we expect them to perform are more complex than in the past. Homework is no longer a page of division problems or a spelling worksheet. Kids now are asked to carry out complicated projects with multiple steps and scoring rubrics that resemble procedures from a NASA engineer’s manual.

In addition, youngsters today...

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Note: This is another example of Blogger Scheduler not working. I have already gone to visit my mom and come back.  
Dealing with, addressing, trying to find solutions for Dylan's issues consumes me and weighs on me. Couple that with financial troubles and it's almost difficult for me to get through my work day.

And then there was more.

For a few years now my mom has been battling bone cancer. It's odd to say, but up to now, it's actually gone well. Bone cancer is incurable, from what I understand, but she's gone through most of it really well.

You hear horror stories about chemotherapy, but the reality is that although it made her a little tired, she never lost a single strand of hair. She continued going out daily for coffee and meals. For a while, it almost became just an annoying part of life, like weekly allergy shots.

It got a little tougher when she started having breathing trouble. Mom smoked for fifty years, so breathing issues were not entirely unexpected (at least by me; it somehow came as a surprise to her). The doctors said that the chemo probably exacerbated the problem and brought it to the surface, but didn't directly cause it.

At first, having to be on oxygen freaked her out way more than the chemotherapy ever did. She went into the hospital twice due more to the anxiety over it than anything else. After a while, however, she acclimated and actually the problems lessened. She didn't have to be on oxygen all the time and she got a little different system that was more manageble. She entered another phase of managing her cancer seemingly well, although she did have to curtail shopping (her greatest love) because her breath didn't have the stamina.

Then her ankles started to swell. She's actually had this problem for a long, long time, thanks to high blood pressure, but from what I understand, it was much, much worse. Steroids helped for a while, but they don't like you to be on them forever. She ended up having a nurse come in to wrap them. It became difficult for her to get around, but not impossible.

Even that became more manageable. But then she got tired. Really really REALLY tired. My mom has always been one to get out of the house every single day. She has a whole slew of coffee clatch regulars she would meet with and go out to dinner with. But she was finding that she couldn't do it. Worse, she didn't even want to.

She feared the worst. And apparently the worst was true.

I don't know all the details. For starters, my mom is the one of the most independent people you will ever meet. She's also one of the least questioning people - meaning she will take in what doctors tell her without asking a lot of questions.

What seems clear is that the cancer that was held steady for so long is spreading. And the chemotherapy is no longer helping. She thinks it's now in her lungs, courtesy of a persistent cough. The doctors have told her there is nothing more they can do for her and to get her affairs in order.

I do not even know how to react to all this.

I'm 1,500 miles away from her. What can I possibly do?  How can I possibly be there for her when she needs me?

I feel like a failure as a daughter, even as I know that I would probably make all the same decisions over again.

Dylan and I will fly up there next week to be with her. She doesn't have a lot of energy, but we are planning to see the new Star Trek movie. My mom was an original Trekkie and is still a huge fan. I'll also try to help start the mon-u-mental task of going through her stuff. She is a bit of a hoarder.

I don't know how to tell her all the things I should, especially with emotional, reactive Dylan right there with me. I don't know how to say final things or even how to deal with the fact that a year from now I might be celebrating Mother's Day without my mother.

I'm sad, stunned, and empty. My mom is not the Leave it Beaver or Brady Bunch mom, but she's mine and I don't want to lose her. I want to go back in time and take those cigarettes out of her hand. I want to get her out and walk with her and force her to be healthy and eat right. But just as she couldn't change my decisions, I know I could never have changed hers.

How have you dealt with the loss of a parent? How do you prepare? How do you ever get over it?

 (c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What aren't we seeing

Evidently, there's something not quite right with scheduling blogs on Blogger. This was supposed to post on 5/15. Apologies for the delay!

It's been a rough spring. We started 2013 with a SAT team meeting that earned Dylan direct intervention (RTI) but only in math. By the end of third quarter, it was obvious that intervention had helped (his math grade went from an F to a C) but he was still failing science and social studies. His reading and language grades were adequate to good, but that didn't really help him since the school wouldn't provide remediation for his failing subjects, only language/reading.

His teacher, seeing the writing on the wall, suggested that we accept the fact that he will fail fifth grade and focus exclusively on math and not worry about science or social studies. Although I could totally see her point, I just couldn't agree with demonstrating to him that it was okay to let those subjects go. I wanted him to try.

Grades aren't final, but it looks like he will fail science for the third quarter in a row, while he will squeak by with a D in social studies. Stunningly, he will fail reading.

I wish I could say that the school is falling all over themselves to figure out what's going on and questioning why a child who has always passed reading is suddenly failing. But as usual, the school is rather relaxed in their approach. They have sent me a notice about a 2 week summer program in math, language, and reading, but they can't really tell me much about the program, especially how it will be different from Sept. - May instruction.

A few months ago, I applied for Dylan's admission to a local private school that strives to have a balanced mix of struggling learners, "regular" students, and gifted students in each class. Struggling learners are given the opportunity to work in very small groups in the subjects that they have trouble with. They also offer art at every grade level, science lab every week, and loads of interesting clubs. It sounded ideal for Dylan.

It also came with a big price tag but I took the plunge and applied for financial aid. After all, I was able to go to a pricey Seven Sisters college thanks to heavy financial aid. We aren't in such a different position than my mom was when I went to college.

A few weeks ago, Dylan spent the day there to test out his fit for the school. I know he had mixed feelings, but he was definitely open to the idea. He sees first-hand how he struggles and really does want to do well in school. That said, he has good friends where he is, so his emotions were conflicted, understandably so.

I got the call on Friday: Dylan was not accepted to the school. When I asked why, I was told that the teachers reported that Dylan seemed sad and didn't seem like he wanted to be there. Although that would seem like a good-enough reason why he shouldn't be there, the fact is I'm willing to bet his current teachers would report the exact same thing.

The fact is that he does seem sad a lot of the time. He doesn't interact with his class. He does shut down. And it's getting worse.

I was really angry last week when I realized that he had just filled in random multiple choice answers on a take-home test. Now that I have cooled off, I've started thinking about how his academic life has taken such a downward spiral.  School seems to be practically painful for him. I don't doubt that he has ADHD, but I feel as though we are missing something. We know he has anxiety, but is that the real root of his problems? Is his anxiety really so much worse than we realized? Is it paralyzing him?

In July, Dylan will go to SOAR Camp for a 3-week academic/challenge course. He's excited about it and I'm hopeful. Maybe this is just what he needs - to be around kids like him and to be challenged, independently, to show who he is. Not to the other kids, but to himself. He needs to believe in himself; to believe he CAN. Because I know he can, and I want him to be able to show it to everyone else, especially the non-believers at his school.

(c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Retrofit Update

After my "week oneish" update, I'm sure you thought there'd be a week two update, or at least a month oneish update. Yeah, I did, too.

But it's been a bit of a rough spring. I'll get into that in some future posts that I'm writing today and scheduling to appear later in the week. Right now, let me tell you about what it has been like to be on #Retrofit.

For starters, I have to again give props to Pragmatic Mom. It was from her fabulous blog that I earned the opportunity to try #Retrofit. #Retrofit is an online and Skype-based program that gives you access to tools, technology, and real people to help you get control of your life. That's right, I didn't say that it helps you lose weight. Although it never quite says it this way, it's obvious that the underlying philosophy of #Retrofit is to help you manage your life so that food is neither the center of it nor the "go to" in times of trouble.

You get in-person access to three professionals. (It was actually four when I first started the program, but they have changed things up a bit.) Going along with you on this journey is a life coach who acts as your in-person program manager, a dietician who helps you work through your food choices, and an exercise physiologist who helps you incorporate more activity into your day.

You are also provided with lots of tools. For instance, I have a FitBit pedometer/accelerometer that now goes with me everywhere, tracking my steps, how active I am, even how many stairways I climb. It's pretty amazing what it can tell! I also weigh in on a scale they provided to me and it logs my weight online. I track all of my food and exercises on the #Retrofit timeline. Or I dietician is now having me photolog my food choices on a different site - Since the beginning, I've also been sent a heart monitor and some exercise tubes.

It seemed really easy at first. It didn't seem that different from my normal way of eating. But unless you do something different, you get the same results you always got, right? So the scale wasn't moving much at all. And I was getting discouraged.

My team was supportive and gentle, but showed me that even though I wasn't gorging on Ben and Jerry's every day, maybe I wasn't being as careful as I ought to be. I admit I hate the idea of trying to be perfect because my life is faaaaaar from perfect! It was obvious, though, that I had to be more careful. So I almost completely cut wine out of my weekdays. I got real careful about taking a bite of Dylan's meal here, a taste of what I was making there.

I also focused more on getting steps. This was harder in some ways because I really do have very little "fat" in my day to borrow from. At work, I'm sitting in a chair all day in front of a computer. It's not an active job. My exercise physiologist suggested I try to walk around the building a couple of times and add four flights of stairs. I thought the walk around would be easy and the stairs hard. Turns out it was the reverse. Getting out of the building seems to be a major commitment, but I've started getting some flights in every time I use the restroom.

S l o w l y  it's been working. I've lost about nine pounds and I hope to make it ten before I go to my college reunion next weekend. I am beginning to learn how to live my life differently. When faced with a buffet of menu choices, I try to think about which ones are lowest in calories and, importantly, which ones are balanced choices? If I have to attend the PTO meeting or run an errand, I try to walk there. It's making a difference, without being so radical that it's not maintainable.

Best of all, I have some pants that feel slightly loose! Not I-have-to-buy-a-new-pair-today-before-someone-laughs-at-me loose, but loose enough to feel great when I put them on.

In a way, I'm glad I haven't been giving you weekly updates. You might've become discouraged and not had much faith in the program. You might not have stuck around to see the beginnings of my success!

Think you might be interested in trying it? It is a commitment, but sometimes a commitment is the only way you will get the job done. If you want to give it a try, visit this link. #Retrofit will know that I referred you and that I appreciate the help they have given me so far.

Try it! All you have to lose is weight. And all you have to gain is YOU.

(C) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013

Sunday, February 24, 2013

#Retrofit: A Week Oneish Update

This past week really felt like my first real week of #Retrofit. The program is very different from others I've tried or even viewed from afar. There's no set "starting point." There's no quick start or even a set meal plan. That's actually the point of the program. They want to teach you to eat well and healthy for life. It's all about developing good practices and making them a normal part of your life., after I spoke with my nutritionist, Stefanie, I felt like I was at the starting point. She didn't have any surprising or life-altering news about eating to share with me. In fact, among the resources she did share with me was the visual from the government's My Plate program, which replaced the Food Pyramid we all grew up with.

My Plate is all about balancing what you eat at every meal. It's a simple formula, really. About a quarter of your food should be protein, a quarter starch, and half your plate should be veggies and fruit. That's not so different from how I eat on a normal basis.

Planning my meals is even easier since I started using The Fresh 20. I know a lot of bloggers promote products and services on their blogs in return for freebies or some kind of remuneration. While I would love that to be the case here, it simply isn't so.

I learned about The Fresh 20 when I signed up for a Groupon offering their services at half price. It was at the end of last year and I knew for 2013 I really did want to try to do better at planning meals. Half price was a great deal, so I signed up.

I didn't really get going with it until late January, but I can tell you that I love it. The Fresh 20 really does make planning meals easy and the recipes are pretty easy and delicious! I've actually had interesting meals that are healthy and well balanced the past few weeks.

Now, I don't follow their plan precisely. Some weeks I only use 3-4 of the five recipes. I've also switched out quinoa (which I don't like) for brown rice or couscous or used ground beef in place of ground turkey if that's what I have in my fridge. Bottom line: We are not eating the same thing week after week.

With all those healthy meals, I was fully prepared for at least a small loss. Unfortunately, the scale went up a little. Yes, I was disappointed, but I have to remember that with my back bothering me, I haven't been exercising. Maybe that's the reason? I'm crossing my fingers for this week!  I'll report back and let you know.

(c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Just let me put the pieces together

I had an interesting conversation with a staff person at my son's school today. Although she knows him well, today was the first day she really watched him try to do homework.

"Is he on medication for his ADHD?" she asked when I went to pick him up.

We talked about all the medications he's been on in the past 2-1/2 years. She was shocked. "Because usually they help them to settle down and focus," she said.

Don't I know it?!

We proceeded to talk for at least 15 minutes. She specializes on special ed and she said that his level of academic disability really qualifies for a school to pay for a "shadow," someone who would help to keep him on track. That is...he would qualify if we weren't at a charter school.

You know, at one time, I supported charter schools. After all, being a charter helped our school get back up and running after Katrina. But I'm learning that all the things I've heard about charters are true. They are exclusionary. They find ways to keep out the kids who bring the test scores down. They wear you down until you leave and go somewhere else.

So, on the one hand it was refreshing to have someone really understand what it's like to work with Flipper*, but on the other it was that sad, brutal understanding that no one can/will/wants to do anything about it. (Actually this teacher would LOVE to do something about it, but her hands are tied.)

I feel as though helping my child is like working on a puzzle. I've got the picture of what it should look like - a picture of success with encouragement, self-esteem, and building on strengths. The only problem is that I've only been given half the puzzle pieces. I have to search for the other pieces and they are all in different places - online, at clinics, in doctor's offices, in teachers' classrooms, in learning centers. Sometimes, the puzzle pieces don't even seem to fit, or seem broken. Even more often, those puzzle pieces are out of my budget, so even if it looks like the perfect piece, I just can't buy it. I just can't help my son. I can't create that beautiful picture of success.

(c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013

*I'm thinking about giving my son an alter ego. What do you all think?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Stalled launch?

Okay, so I've launched, in that I have met both my behavior coach and my nutritionist (I meet the exercise physiologist next week), but...I'm flat on my back and not really able to do much in terms of watching what I eat or exercising.

Bummer, hunh?

I've had back issues from time to time from years. It's a family tradition, really. My mom's had back issues. My uncle. My aunt. It was bound to happen.

This back issue started on Sunday. I wish I could say I was dancing the tango or doing the limbo or even just sashaying down the street after a parade. In fact, I was changing the sheets.

Yup. Done in by 800 count linens (or whatever they are).

Actually, that moment wasn't so bad. I immediately laid down and stretched and felt pretty good until a few hours later when I moved a stool. Crack. Did it again.

That was bad, but not awful. I stretched again. On Monday, I worked on my Mardi Gras costume, but also rested. It was damp out, probably not the best weather. We were going to go to a parade, but just ended up going downtown for a little while, which was probably a good thing.

Then came Mardi Gras.

I'm sure many of you think Mardi Gras is the drunken porn fest you see on TV. You think the revelers are hedonistic pagans. In reality, Mardi Gras is a (mostly) family friendly celebration of creativity. With a lot of walking. And even more standing. And some alcohol.

Did I say A LOT of walking and A LOT of standing?


By the end of the day, my back was throbbing.

Thankfully, I had had the foresight to take Wednesday off and was able to rest. I'd probably be in a pretty good position had I not tried to get our puppy into her crate. The combination of her 28 lbs and the angle I was at combined to make a big CRACK. Lots of pain. And I haven't been right since.

I've been in bed all day. On heat and ice. In pain. I have to hope it will go away, because I just cannot afford the chiropractor right now.

After talking to my nutritionist, I was all set to make lovely, healthy meals that looked like an advertisement for Instead, I'm eating what's quick and able to be consumed in a nearly prone position. I'm certainly not exercising.

So, I will be #Retrofitting myself...eventually. When I can walk again.

(c) Argonne Chronicles 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

Still waiting to launch

I've met one of my #Retrofit team members (my program advisor), but I don't feel as though I have fully started. This week I'll meet my behavior coach, next week my registered dietician, and finally in week three my exercise physiologist.

On top of that, it took me almost a week to get all of my tech tools (the scale and the wearable accelerometer) linked up and working the way they are supposed to.

Meanwhile, I've been tracking what I eat online and have been trying to more-or-less be "good," although considering we are in Carnival season, that's not always easy.

I'm looking forward to meeting the rest of the team...but anxious, too. I mean, what can they possibly tell me that I don't already know? How can they fix those crazy nights when we're racing home from a therapy appointment and Dylan has a mountain of homework that he simply can't complete without someone (read: me) rightnexttohim? How do you make a healthy meal in those 10 minute after homework is finally completed before bedtime? How do I incorporate more exercise in that schedule, too? How do I make lighter meals for me while feeding the pickiest kid on the planet and a HungryMan RockStar?

So many questions! And right now I'm in a holding pattern, waiting to find out what they have in store. Eager, anxious, and ready.

Friday, January 25, 2013

I am being #Retrofitted!

The folks at #Retrofit actually sent me a scale. This isn't it.
After my last rather glum post, I've found a definite reason to smile and feel blessed. I won a year's membership with #Retrofit thanks to a blog contest by one of my very favorite bloggers.

If you are not following Pragmatic Mom, you definitely should be. Mia largely blogs about great children's books, but that alone does not describe her blog. Books are the theme, but she doesn't limit herself to that. Along the way, you get tips on parenting, blogging, gift giving, and how to be good to yourself. She's very very real. Read through a few posts and you'll want to grab a cup of coffee with her.  I know I would like to, although a good 1,600 miles separates us!

At the beginning of the year, Mia offered a blog contest with #Retrofit at the prize. I enter a lot of blog contests, but I really wanted to win this one! Amidst all my concerns about Dylan's education and well-being, there's this little teeny-tiny voice saying "What about me!?" Not to mention that despite my best efforts my weight has just been going up and up. I've gained 15 lbs just in the past year! I needed something to change and I'm really really hoping that #Retrofit is it!

I should also give a shout out to Vanita Cyril. She's another Pragmatic Mom fan who guest posted on Pragmatic Mom about her experience with #Retrofit. I hope to follow in her footsteps!

Through it all, I will share my journey with y'all. I know many moms (like this one and this one) who are trying to make this year the year for them.  We all love our kids, but it's hard to be a good mom when you are stressed out and are living only for other people.

Am I nervous? Yup. Do I think it will be easy? Nope.

I'll share more about my anxieties about it in a later post. I have my first meeting with my program advisor on Monday. I'll try to post soon after but one of the first rules of 2013 has got to be: Don't stress yourself out. With work and homework and trying to eat healthy, finding time to blog may not be easy, plus our internet has been a bit inconsistent lately. I hope to figure that out, but count on most posts coming over the weekend.

Wish me luck! I'll keep you posted!

(c) Argonne Chronicles 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Am I at a crossroads?

I started the year off well. I had my resolutions in hand (written down!) and I had even given myself a month-to-month list of goals. (Thank you Gretchen Rubin and The Happiness Project.)

It wasn't long, however, before I started slide.

Everything seemed grey. Difficult. Too much.

(It probably didn't help that our weather has been grey and a bit difficult.)  

I'm normally go-go-go, but all I seemed to want to do was stay in bed with the covers over my head. I wanted to sleep, which is my go-to avoidance technique. Or read, which I spent an entire Saturday afternoon doing.

I didn't like my world, so I entered the pages of another.

And it's not over yet. I'm a bit better, but still grey.

You might ask, "So, why don't you just get a prescription and take that all away?  All the cool kids are doing it."

I'm sure my doc would do it, but would that really solve anything? It's not like I'm just chemically depressed. A bit of winter-induced sunshine deficit. No, and in fact, I even think it's the desire to change, to make resolutions and do better that has put me here!

There's a realization that there is A LOT to tackle. And not everything fits into a month-to-month plan.

For instance, February was going to be budget month. Get our finances in line, trim those expenses, pay off some debt. But before we could even get there, for the second month in a row, we overdrew.

Now, we are not profligate spenders. We do not have the big DVR/High-Def/500-channel satellite channel. We've got your basic cable on an old big box TV. We have cut back on dining out such that I look forward to my mother-in-law's visits so that we can actually sit in a restaurant. I buy clothes only when something has worn out beyond fixing or I have outgrown something (which is happening to me, much to my chagrin). We keep the thermostat adjusted, buy the cheapest gas, and shop at WalMart (which grates on my soul). The bottom line is that we can't live on my pretty steady salary and RockStar's erratic one.

So not even a month in and January's plan (set better routines) was usurped by February's.

I know, it's not Armageddon, but for whatever reason it set me off. I realized how much the frustrations in my life are interconnected. It's hard to work on one thing exclusively, while the others are screaming for attention. It's overwhelming.  Right now, I feel as though all of these things need my immediate attention:
  • Finances - earn more money
  • Finances - pay off bills/lower bills
  • Dylan's education - figure out some sort of way to help his failing grades (without spending money on tutoring)
  • Dylan's socio-emotional needs - figure out ways to help him deal with anger (without more costly doctor bills)
  • Home management - get us on a more consistent schedule with healthier meals and a balance between leisure and school/work
  • Time management - get it all (my work, home management, helping Dylan with school, Scouts, and oh yeah, time for myself) done without killing myself
  • Weight/Health - Eat better and work out more without actually taking up any more time
  • Creativity - Feed my creative soul, again without actually taking up any more time or resources
And that list doesn't nclude room for friendship or even nurturing my relationship with RockStar which has its troubles thanks to that uneven financial picture and my current negative body image. Oh, and I still need a way to resolve my feelings about the new dog.

So, what's my solution, right?  You've read this far, you figure there's a neat happy ending? Yeah, well, unfortunately I feel as though I'm still in the thick of it. Still fighting the grey desire to just cover my head with blankets and read a good book. I'm going to work and doing what needs to be done, but it's hard. Today I'm meeting with Dylan's teacher and it's nearly my undoing. I feel as though I need to go through it, not medicate it, but we'll see.

How do you handle overwhelm? Is there a way to make it all fit?

(c) The Argonne Chronicles 2013


Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Discriminating H

When Dylan was first diagnosed, the official diagnosis was ADHD-Inattentive Type. This corresponds with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, which provides the standard diagnosis language and assessment of mental disorders used by mental health professionals. 

At one time, the DSM recognized attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder separately. I don't pretend to know why the Powers That Be that write, edit, and classify things in the DSM made the change, but I suspect that it had to do with the great deal of crossover among the different types.

Today, the DSM definition of ADHD is broken into three classifications: inattentive, hyperactive, and combined types.

Over time, it has become apparent that Dylan is actually classified as combined type. While inattention to things that are not compelling to him is easily the area that most handicaps him, he also has trouble sitting still, he talks a blue streak, and he's impulsive.

As not just an ADHD parent, but also an ADHD advocate, I will pretty easily share our story. The more parents share what they, their kids, and their families go through, the more I believe the stigma will be reduced. I fear, however, that there remains two distinct levels of stigma.

Often when I share that Dylan has ADHD, another parent will be quick to respond, "Oh, my son has ADD" or "My daughter has that, but without the H." It's obvious that there's a subtle distinction begin made.

If we're ever going to make a difference in the lives of kids and adults with ADHD, we don't need to be making distinctions that could serve to separate some of those who suffer from this disorder. We need to share what it's like, how it makes our kids' lives difficult, what the challenges are, what the successes are, and what makes these kids special, not what separates them from other kids or from each other.

Skin color should not divide us. Sexual orientation should not divide us. And neither should an H.

(c) The Argonne Chronicles, 2013