Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Five Years Later. . .

In the Fall of 2012, I took part in a quilt block swap at the homesteading forum I was a part of back then.  Each person in the swap made a 12.5" (unfinished dimensions) block in their choice of pattern, using "Fall" or "Autumn" colors, for each of the other participants in the swap, so that we all ended up with sixteen different, but coordinating quilt blocks. 

I blogged about being excited to receive my packet of blocks way back here.

The next month, DD1 moved back home from college in MN after just one extremely homesick semester.  That was, I thought, just a slight adjustment, and that I'd get to putting those blocks together into a quilt by the following summer, so that it would be ready when Fall came again.

Ha ha.  Boy, was I wrong.  Looking back from five years, and many (more than slight) adjustments to our living arrangements later, DD1 moving home from MN was not a small blip in a radar that returned to normal. It seems, instead, to have been one of many bumps that sent me way, way off course.  Because other than a few Christmas or birthday presents here and there, and two baby quilts (this one and this one), I really haven't done nearly as much sewing after 2013 arrived.

In fact, for most of this year, my sewing machine has been pretty unreachable, buried against the far wall of the room it's in, with a whole bunch of other stuff (quite a bit belonging to people other than me) between it and the doorway.

Kind of how I feel, buried in tasks, quite a few 'dumped' on me by other people.

This past weekend, when DH was up north helping his mom with a project yet again (the fifth weekend he's done so since--and including--Memorial Day weekend) and DD1 was also out of town, and I decided that for once I was not going to bust my butt doing tasks all weekend while everyone else was gone.  Not a whole lot of things have gotten done around here this summer in my opinion, and I'm totally burned out on trying to accomplish tasks on my own.  Instead of working on something on the to-do list or the project list, I waded my way (OK, maybe more like bushwhacked, as there was quite a bit of shoving involved) to my sewing machine and retrieved it from the mess in what was once, oh say five years ago, my sewing room.  Then I dug out those quilt blocks from that swap in 2012.  And the fabrics I'd bought, in 2014, for borders and backing to make those blocks into a finished quilt. Oh,and the batting I'd also bought, in 2014, when making those two baby quilts (I had bought extra, with the plans to finish the Fall 2012 swap blocks as well as another set of blocks.)

I hauled all that, plus my ironing board and iron, rotary cutter, mat and ruler, downstairs to the dining room.  Then, I commenced measuring, cutting, and sewing.  And doing math, and more cutting, and more sewing. 

I thought I would have this quilt finished by Saturday night. 

I was wrong.  First off, the fabric I'd bought for the backing ended up being a wee bit short of what I needed.  Like, not even half a yard.  Since it had been purchased three years ago, at a quilt shop on hour away, running out for an extra half yard just wasn't possible that day. Probably not possible any day, as the fabric probably was no longer available. So I had to improvise with what I had on hand.  That required a lot more math.  But I got it figured out.

Reassessed my timeline, and I thought I would have the quilt finished before DH (or DD1) got back home on Sunday.

Nope.  My machine jammed up.  Because, of course, it's been sitting in a pile of assorted boxes, books, clothing, etc gathering dust, all year.  And it hasn't been oiled in several years.  So, dust plus dry machine plus about eight hours of sewing going on in two days equaled having the needle stuck in the down position and nothing moving when I pushed the foot pedal or tried to manually turn the flywheel.

Do you know, it's about impossible to find info on taking apart and servicing your own sewing machine?  How frustrating!  Finally, I found one video of a guy (who does sewing machine repair) taking the front and back off of the exact same machine I own, although for a different reason than why I was hell bent on getting to the guts of my machine.  I did manage to free my quilt by using a pair of tin snips to cut the needle and then lifting the quilt off the piece of needle that was still stuck in the sewing machine

So, the quilt didn't get finished Sunday, and it didn't get finished Monday either.  BUT, with DH's help, I did get my machine opened up, cleaned, oiled and fixed.  All without having to take it to a service place.  Yay me!  Saved some cash there!

Today, I finally finished it.  Several days, and many more hours longer than I'd planned.  I quilted it by stitching in the ditch around the border, the sashing, and the design in each individual block.  The back has it's own border made from the same fabric as the border on the front (how I solved the problem of my backing fabric being scant) and the different blocks can be identified by the quilting.

It is 60" x 60" square. I intend for it to be a seasonal throw on the back on the living room couch.  Doing double duty as both decor and a nice warm blanket to snuggle up in on chilly Fall days

front, partially quilted 
(taken yesterday once it had been freed from the machine!)

front, with quilting finished
(I think the quilting makes the blocks really pop)

back, showing quilting
 (still needing thread ends trimmed)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Lots of Apples

It has been a good year for fruit.  We harvested about a bushel and a half of pears off of our two small(ish) pear trees--after not realizing one of them was definitely ripe and had all ready dropped half of it's fruit. The apple trees have, by far, outdone the pear trees though.  It's been an excellent year for apples.

In early September, we harvested roughly a bushel and a half of apples from my Ida Red apple tree.  It is the first one in  my orchard to be ready each year.  It is my favorite for making applesauce with, as it is sweet enough I don't need to add any sugar, yet it has a slight tartness also.

The next tree is the Cortland, with it's deep red skin and bright white flesh.  Also good for sauce, it's kind of a back-up in case the Ida Red has a bad year.  It makes good pies, crisps, and baked apples too.  This year I kind of dropped the ball on my Cortland tree, getting preoccupied with other stuff and not keeping an eye on how quickly it was ripening.  Probably half the crop from that one went to the deer, the rest, at least a bushel, made it's way into storage until I can get them processed. Depending on how much applesauce we want, I might try my hand at canned apple pie filling with the Cortlands.

Following quickly behind the Cortland, and the one tree I don't really care all that much for it's fruit, but planted it as a pollinator for some of the others, is the Red Delicious.  That tree outdid itself this year.  We picked well over two bushel of apples from it.  I'm thinking I will make juice out of them.

Not quite ready yet, but very soon, as it's an October apple, is DH's favorite, the Granny Smith.  We've picked up over a dozen drops lately, but haven't harvested the tree yet.  It doesn't produce quite as well as the red varieties, but still looks to have at least a bushel-worth of apples hanging on the limbs.  These make really good pies, but also store very well in the cellar, so are designated as DH's 'lunchbox apples'.  Typically they stay nice and crisp down in the cellar until around the beginning of March.

Last weekend, DH and I had K3 and Toad 'help' us to harvest some of the apples.  K3 was surprisingly talented with the apple picker, and really got into the idea of picking apples.  It was hard to get her to relinquish her tool so that her brother could have a try at it.  It was also difficult to get her to stick to one area of one tree until all the apples in that spot had been removed.  She mostly wanted to go from tree to tree, choosing what she though was the best looking apple on each.  She was pretty intent on filling a grocery bag with apples to take home to her mom and dad.

Toad, being younger and shorter, couldn't aim and balance the apple picker quite as well.  He got a few low-hanging apples on his own, but mostly had help from Grandma (me) steering the picker.  I think he better liked helping Grandpa (DH) collect the bruised dropped apples from the ground and tossing them into the tractor bucket to be hauled away from the orchard (where they were attracting yellow jackets).

He did put a few salvageable ones in my 'use right away' basket (where most of the California Horse's treats have come from this week), as well as pick a really big Red Delicious to take home.  He proudly told his dad "This apple is as big as my head." when DS1 came to get them later in the day. It was actually only about half the size of his head; very large for an apple.

Toad's big apple

Meanwhile, my garage currently smells deliciously of apples, as that is where all the baskets and bags are being stored while they await their turn in the canner.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

We've all heard that patience is a virtue.  Through the nearly 28 years that I've been a parent, I've often prayed for patience.  Patience to not get upset with my children's antics.  Patience to not blow my top at DH after a long day of cleaning house and having him come home to remark on the one thing I didn't get to, rather than comment on how awesome the house looks where I did get things taken care of.  Patience in my desire to ride horses more than a couple times a month.  Patience with people who are yanking my chain when I'd really like to wrap that same chain around their throats and give a good hard yank of my own. . .

And what do you know; the older I get, the more I see that I possess an extraordinary amount of patience! 

Patience with our finances is something that, luckily, DH and I share.  We are on the same page as far as our budget goes, our wants and needs, and what our long term game plan is (debt free living by age 55--me--and 57--him!).  Not that we don't argue about money, we do, but we don't argue about money much.  Most of our financial discussions are honest to goodness discussions, with give and take and feed back.  All vacations are planned. All large expenditures are planned.  Very little impulse buying goes on, honestly, because you can't really call it an impulse buy if you've all ready got the money set aside for 'fun stuff' or small 'wants'.

We know, and have experienced over the years, that good things come to those who wait. Everything in it's own time.

I've wanted a crew cab pickup for a long, long time.  My first vehicle purchase--at age 18--was a pickup.  I'm a truck girl.  I'm also a practical mom, who knew that I would need a crew cab truck if I was going to be able to haul all my kids around.

But, there were a lot of other vehicles I could haul four kids around in, so we didn't purchase a crew cab truck way back when.  The photo below was taken in early 1998, for fun, of me and a long bed, 4WD, 3/4 ton crew cab dually.  My dream truck.  A truck we certainly couldn't afford to buy, and really had no use for that much of a work horse of a vehicle.  At the time, I was driving an all wheel drive Astro van, and it met all our needs. But I've always dreamed of a crew cab truck.  Someday. . .

Guess what?!?

That someday has come!  It's not a 3/4 ton (although DH and I debated 3/4 vs 1/2 ton for most of the past year--yes, we've been planning this purchase well before going shopping).  It's not a dually, since we don't do that much heavy hauling to merit having a dual wheeled rear axle.  And it's not a long box, as those are about impossible to find any more, but it is a 'regular' box, not a short bed (the angle of the below pics make the bed look shorter).

What it is, is a 1/2 ton, 4WD, crew cab Chevy truck.  Blue (like the one above, although that pic is too dark to really tell).  Six passenger seating, so we have lots of room for grandkids, both now and the ones we'll be getting in the future.  Because we plan to have this truck for about 20 years.  It will probably take us that long to wear it out. 

This is our new trip truck, for long distance travel.  This is our new hauling vehicle. This will be my daily runner when the Suburban finally bites the big one in a few years or more (rolled 238.800 miles this afternoon!) This is the good thing that certainly has been worth waiting nearly 20 years for.  And, despite the fact that we had to take out a loan to purchase it, fits right into our plan to be debt free by ages 55 and 57.  Because of the durability of this vehicle, we'll be driving it for many, many years, long after the loan is paid back (loan payoff goal: less than the 60 months the bank planned the loan for).  Also long after our mortgage is paid off, which will give us the ability to save up money to pay cash for the next brand new truck we will need when this one gets to be on it's last legs.

Patience.  Good things.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Don't Ask

I'm sure you've heard the phrase "Ask and ye shall receive."  I know that I have.  And, apparently I have asked, because today I have received.

Our 2005 Suburban has been a trusty vehicle for all the years we've owned it.  12.5 years, to be exact.  It was basically brand new when we bought it (company used, about 4500 miles on the odometer when we took possession).  Now, more than a decade later, it is showing a bit of wear on the outside, with some rocker panel rust and more than a few dents and dings.  What can I say, it's been through four teenage drivers, and numerous long distance trips.  It has carried us from mid-Michigan to places like Canada, Florida, Oregon, Pennsylvania, the Upper Peninsula, as well as to South Carolina about a handful of times before DS1, K2 and the grandkids moved up here.

That's just the trips that were more than 200 miles one way.  Daily commutes to the Christian school I had at least one student in until June 2011 racked up 220 miles each week during the school year.  To say it has high mileage would be kind of stating the obvious.

Earlier this month, the odometer rolled 238,000 miles, and I said to DH: "We are about the enter the unknown."

You see, we've had three other vehicles that we drove to over 200,000 miles before something major (more truthfully, majorly expensive to repair) gave out on them.  First was a 1984 Chevy Caprice Classic (bought in the summer of 1991 and retired in 1997).  Then, a 1989 Pontiac Bonneville (bought in the fall of 1993, and retired late winter/early spring 1999).  Most recently, a 1999 GMC Sonoma (bought in March 1999 brand new!!  5 miles on the odometer! and retired in 2008.)

Of those three, the Bonneville made it to about 238,200 miles and then blew the head gasket. It has been our record holder, so far, for highest mileage before 'dying'.  Although truthfully, none of those vehicles became scrap immediately after leaving our possession. Nope, each one was lucky enough to be sold to a young mechanic (DH has an affinity for finding young mechanics on tight budgets) who was going to fix what was wrong with the vehicle (doing the work himself, thus saving the high labor cost that was the reason we no longer wanted to repair the vehicle), then use it for a daily driver.

That's why, when the Suburban ticked past the 238,000 mile mark, the suspense began to build.  How many miles can I drive before something major breaks?  Can I make it past 238,200 miles? What will it be that dies?  Where will I be when it happens?  (Cue either the Twilight Zone music, or the Jeopardy final question music).

Not that something major has broken, but in a way today I feel like I shouldn't have asked.  You see, I was on my way home from the grocery store (approx. 20 miles away), and the odometer clocked yet another milestone reading. 238,400 miles.  I even took a quick picture of it, so I could show DH.

Wouldn't you know, about ten minutes later, less than 2 miles from home, I was coming up over a blind hill and was surprised to see a combine coming toward me, taking up 3/4 of the narrow road.  I jammed on the brakes, and felt the pedal pretty much sink to the floor.  Luckily between me quickly steering as far onto the shoulder as I could without hitting a mailbox or tree, and the farmer doing the same in the combine, we passed each other without touching.

Where had my brakes gone?  They were there just minutes before, at a stop sign, like normal. But when the combine appeared, my brakes disappeared.

The rest of the way home, I made sure to give myself lots of stopping distance, and to utilize engine braking when needed.  Thank goodness there was zero traffic after that combine.

Once home, I took the groceries into the house and put them away (can't let the ice cream melt, I'm going to be stress eating some later today for sure!).  After the cold food was safely stored, I went back outside to see if I could diagnose what the issue with my brakes was.

Didn't take long to figure out.

Appears to be a blown brake line on the left rear.  I guess after 238,400 miles a brake line is allowed to wear out.  That's pretty darn good service.  We've had to replace them a lot sooner on other vehicles we've owned.

Thankfully, a brake line isn't a major thing to replace.  So, the suburban should be up and running again in a day or two, just as soon as we get parts and time to fix it.  Which is good, because I have a goal to roll at least 250,000 miles before I give up my suburban!

Friday, September 15, 2017

ADD/ADHD (part 3)

But wait, that's not all!  There was more that DH & I did with our family than just change what we ate.  Edible intake was a huge portion, but that alone didn't 'fix' everything for DS1 and his possible ADD or ADHD.

That kid (well, all our kids, and I truly believe every kid in the world) thrived on structure.  Now, I don't mean over scheduling and micro-managing his time.  No, it's simpler than that.  Having a consistent time that he woke up, had breakfast (never, ever, go without breakfast--doesn't matter if you are a child or an adult, eat your breakfast!), went to school, came home from school, played, did homework, had dinner, played some more, took a bath, went through the bedtime routine, and went to bed every single day, allowed him to focus on what he was supposed to do when.  Plus, regular and consistent sleep is a huge benefit to brain function, no matter who you are.  There weren't fights and meltdowns over homework (usually), because he knew what portion of his evening he had to sit down and do it. There was no use arguing, this time slot was homework time. And the sooner it was done, the more play time he had.  (*side note* I really and truly believe that DS2 watched and learned from his brother's experience with school work.  DS2 was 4 grades younger, and it was his personal goal to never have homework.  If he could get all his assignments done at school, or on the ride home from school that was his plan.  He got almost to high school homework-free with this mindset.)

I always gave my kids a snack (both solid and liquid) and at least a half-hour of play time when they got home from school.  Didn't matter how much homework there was that day, first order of business upon arriving home was to have something to eat and drink, then go outside and run around (weather permitting--basically if it wasn't down pouring, thunder storming, or wind chills below zero) for at least a half-hour.  I firmly believe kids need to decompress a little after being cooped up in a classroom.  Their bodies need refueling and a good blood-pumping bit of physical activity, then their brains will be better able to focus on any necessary homework.  The amount of time spent on homework varied by child, and even by the day.  The less homework, the more play time; because the only things they had going on (when everyone was in elementary school) after school was dinner, chores, homework and play time.

Something that always grated on me, and honestly still does, is the common practice in schools to take away recess time for undesirable behavior in the classroom or for not having assignments finished on time.  Especially in young children.  Making them sit still even longer during the day, and not having that short bit of physical activity doesn't really make them have an easier time not being wiggly, or grumpy, or help them think through their work better.  Everyone needs a break to stretch now and then; we all come back refreshed and ready to tackle the next task.  My preference would be more towards having sentences to copy ("I will sit still" or "I will be quiet" or "I will be nice to my classmates")  or an short essay to write ("Why it's rude to talk back to the teacher" or "Why it hurt Joey's feelings when I pushed him" or "Why it's a distraction when I keep falling out of my chair") for older kids rather than being punished by missing the physical and mental break of recess.  Anyway. . .

In addition to the play time, if DS1 was having a particularly rough day body-wise, I would assign him laps.  Meaning he either had to walk, or run (depending on how much 'steam' I felt he needed to burn off) a certain number of times around the outside of our house.  These could even be done in the dark (such as in the winter when the sun was down about an hour after we returned from school) because he was following the walls of the building and not going far out into the yard or near the street where I might not be able to keep an eye on him (for anyone leery of having their child approached by strangers in cars. . . )

In the summer, the daily routine changed, of course, since there weren't six to seven hours of being away at school during the day.  Instead, there would be reading time, drawing/coloring time, helping to cook, bike riding time, etc.  We would go to the library, or the beach (weather permitting) on a particular time on a particular day each week.  Same with grocery shopping.  It was predictable, and reliable, and DS1 (as well as the other kids) knew when it was coming and what to expect (and how he was expected to behave or what he was expected to do).  There is a great deal of comfort for kids in having a routine and knowing what is going to happen next.

So we've got nutrition, structure, free time (play) and physical exercise all helping to manage DS1's tendency toward ADHD type behaviors.  But wait, that's not all! Limitations on screen time also helped.

Now, this was back in 1998, remember, that I started this whole big research project into what would help DS1 with his energetics, noise, and other behaviors that were creating the whole "Does he have ADD/ADHD?  Does he need medicating?" question.  There were no such thing as smart phones or tablets back then.  Laptops really were a business thing, not a home computer.  And not all homes had computers.  We didn't get our first computer at home until 'Santa' brought the whole family one for Christmas that year.  We didn't own a video game system, either.  So most of my kids' screen exposure was the television.  And I was the TV Nazi, let me tell you!  Even as a child, I wasn't too impressed with TV, and I've never really been an avid watcher of television.  I remember being about ten years old when I stopped watching cartoons, because I felt they insulted my intelligence.  The three stooges?  Puh-leeze.  Soap operas?  Really?  I mean, seriously, does that represent anyone's real life?  Give me something that I could apply to my own life and benefit from. (Yes, I do love documentaries and other types of educational programs.  You probably were wondering. . . )

My poor kids were allowed to watch 30 minutes per day of cartoons and that was only the ones on PBS (we've never had cable or satellite TV).  Not every day, but some days, they could also watch one video, which was typically something by Disney.  A "long" movie might be an entire 90 minutes of eyes glued to the television, which they felt was a huge treat.

Might sound like cruel and unusual punishment compared to the amount of screen time kids get these days, but you know what?  It gave them more time for outdoor play, sports, reading, playing board games or doing puzzles, or just interacting with each other, their friends, and DH & I.

When we did, eventually, acquire a home computer and a video game system, their individual screen time increased by another 30 minutes.  They could now watch 30 min of TV and spend either 30 min on the computer (playing the few computer games we owned, all of which were probably considered educational) or playing a video game (also monitored for acceptability before being purchased).

Sounds harsh, yes?  It worked.  On the occasion where DH or I got lenient with the times and allowed TV, movie, computer or video game binge-ing, behavior went into the toilet quickly. Then we all suffered: DS1 (or whichever child was zombified by screens), DH and I all had to pay the price of doing screen detox and getting back on track.  And, now, many years later when all my kids are adults, I have to say that they all are very good at entertaining themselves without having to be glued to a screen.  They all, even DS1, are good at time management.  They all have in internal monitor which tells them when they haven't been physically active enough and need to slot in some time to move around or get outside

Hopefully these posts been more than a trip down memory lane for me and a (maybe) somewhat interesting story for you to read.  If you, or anyone you know (your child, for instance), struggles with possible ADD/ADHD or behavioral issues (constant motion, talking a lot), it can't hurt to try changing your diet for a month or two and see what happens.  Structure and consistency help a lot also, as well as the opportunity to be physically active numerous times a day.  Screen time can be beneficial when the right sorts of things are on the screen, for limited times, but can also be a downward spiral of sluggishness, grumpiness, and other undesirable traits when used too long or for the wrong sorts of things.

If you are someone facing ADD/ADHD in your life, I wish you luck.  Don't give up, and don't get discouraged.  You can experiment and learn what things help, and which things make life more challenging for you. You can learn to be in control of it, and not let it control you quite so much.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

ADD/ADHD (part 2)

Meanwhile, that same time Spring, I was digging into how to manage some major health issues of DS2's.  He'd always had skin problems; had been seeing a dermatologist since he was nine months old (he was just over 4 years old when we started down the path of trying to see if DS1 really had ADD/ADHD).  The day after DS2's 4th birthday, he'd woken up in his first ever asthma attack and ended up in the hospital for 3 days.  Two month after that, another severe asthma attack netted him another two days in the hospital.  Now it was the following Spring, his allergies were kicking back into high gear with all the pollen around, his asthma was flaring again, and I was seeking all the info I could get on how to keep his allergies & asthma under control enough to prevent any more hospital stays.

Enter a book, the title of which I have long since forgotten, containing a chapter about nutrition.  A chapter that brought to the forefront of my mind a sheet of food additives that his dermatologist had long ago given me, telling me that often things like dyes (artificial colors), artificial flavorings, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives (particularly TBHQ, BHA and BHT) increased the likelihood of an eczema flare up.  Then, I had an A-HA! moment.  Eczema, hay fever (allergies) and asthma all have a genetic link.  So, if those things would cause DS2's eczema to flare, would exposure to them also increase the severity of his asthma?

Since he was all ready exposed to a number of allergens I couldn't control (pollen, outdoor molds during the warm wet weather), could I lessen the chance of an asthma flare up if I cut those suspicious substances--all the artificials and preservatives--from DS2's diet?  It certainly seemed worth the effort to give it a try.

And it was an effort.  Unless you are a organic vegan grow and cook everything yourself person, go to your cupboard and fridge, and read the ingredients on every single item of food and condiments and seasonings that you have.  How many of them contain at least one colorant, flavoring, sweetener other than sugar/honey/molasses/maple syrup, or a preservative? (note, I attempted this on Monday and couldn't find a single item with TBHQ, BHA, or BHT, so not sure if they are rarely used these days or if I've gotten so good at eradicating those items that there isn't any in my house even though the kids are grown up and don't eat here anymore).

BUT, DS2's asthma stayed under control.  Not only that, since everyone in the house was eating and drinking the same things as DS2, everyone got healthier.  Skin was better not just on DS2, but also on myself and DD2 (we have eczema also).  DD1, who has been on the run since she learned to push herself around in a baby walker, didn't bounce off the walls so much and her mouth which seemed to never shut ran at a lower speed (later experiments with her enlightened us to how sensitive she is to red dyes).

This new way of eating became our normal over the summer of 1998 (which, not coincidentally, is the summer I started gardening, and have grown an increasing portion of our food ever since). When school started back up again, with DS1 in 4th grade, DS2 in Kindergarten, and DD1 in preschool, I learned how to pack lunches and snacks that avoided the 'bad things'.  The complaints about DS1 being noisy and not sitting still didn't resurface at all that year (although he still zoned out sometimes, and he struggled with boredom and organizational skills).  DS2 stayed relatively asthma free (no hospitalization, not even one missed day of school).  DD1 was a favorite (and well behaved) student of her preschool teacher.

That year, and the next six or seven, no matter how many kids I had in school (be it two or three or four), not a single one had a single sick day.  Ever.  Many years, it was noted that the S____ (our last name) kids all had perfect attendance.  More than one year, ours was the only family in the school where not one child had missed school.  (Then came the year of the recurring head lice epidemic and that went to h@*%.)

Coincidence that my kids' health and behavior issues improved?  I really don't think so.  And, apparently neither does DS1, who has been the main person lately drilling me about what I fed him growing up.  K2 has recently been diagnosed with ADHD and has been put on meds for it (which seem to be causing her some unpleasant side effects).  K3 sometimes shows signs that she might possibly have an attention or learning problem. DS1 remembered vaguely the time when it had been thought that he had ADHD, and so he sought me out for advice.  Which has led to a conscious effort on my part to remember all the things in 'regular' food that I have avoided for so long that I don't even have to think about them anymore.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

ADD/ADHD (part 1)

This is a subject that I had not thought of in many years.  But recently, it's been brought up to me several times, and since I'm having my brain picked by others right now, I thought maybe it would be a valuable topic for a blog post.

Back when my kids were small; actually so far back that there were only three of them, DS1 was having some issues in school and it was suggested by more than one person that he might possibly have ADD or ADHD.  Our first course of action was to go from public elementary school, to a small private Christian school in search of a smaller student to teacher ratio, hoping that more one-on-one type of attention might help in his wiggliness.

Having a smaller, and multi-grade, classroom helped somewhat, but hadn't alleviated all of the issues. By the middle of DS1's second grade school year (and now the parents of four kids), DH and I were at what we thought were our wits end. (Oh, if only we knew how his educational future would play out!  Then again, it's better we hadn't known then because we may have slit our throats and gotten it over with.  Truly, getting DS1 through to high school graduation was sometimes that bad.) I took DS1 to be evaluated for ADD.  Now, this was back in early 1998 or so, when it seemed like ADD was the scourge of nearly every single boy in school.  No kidding.  ADD was 'diagnosed' a hundred-fold more times than it had been in the past decade, and more than it would be just ten years later.

Which is a nice way of saying I had my doubts as to the accuracy of these diagnoses. So I wasn't going to be satisfied with a doctor taking a quick 5-minute look at my child and be willing to have a 'professional' label him as ADD and stick him on drugs for the rest of his life.  In my mind, I wasn't sure he wasn't just bored with school.  He was a quick learner (as I had been; I only went to school for 12 years, completing 1st & 2nd grade in one school year, and doing college classes while still in high school. My father had gotten his diploma even quicker, skipping both Kindergarten and 7th grade, graduating at just 16) and I knew that I'd spent many classroom hours bored out of my skull.  What had saved me was that I was a doodler, so as long as my hands could be busy drawing on something--or, when I got older, writing elaborate stories--I could sit still and quietly wait for the teacher(s) to move on to the next lesson. My boy didn't apparently have my affinity for doodling, was too young for writing fanciful sagas, and he was a wiggling, squeaking, beeping, airplane-noise-making mess.

We started with our family doctor, who asked a few questions about the school time wiggles and airplane noises, asked a few more questions about DS1's attention span outside of school, and basically said "Well, he could have ADD or more likely ADHD, but I'm not really an expert.  Would you like a referral to someone who knows more about it?"

I took the referral.  On to doctor and evaluation #2.  More questions, starting with infancy.  Had DS1 hit all the typical developmental milestones on time?  Yes, and many early.  Had he gone to preschool? Yes, sort of, it was a rural area that did Head Start as a weekly home visit from the teacher who after her hour with Mom and Child left a packet of activities for the mother to work on with the child until the next visit.  Once a month all the students of that teacher (and their mothers) had a 1/2 day group session where the children interacted with each other and the teacher while the moms were given an informational presentation and interacted with each other.  (*side note*  I really, really loved how that program was done.  I had not heard of one like it before or since then, and I wish more programs were run in that manner.) How did he do in preschool?  Awesome; his teacher was challenged to keep him in materials as he ate up the tasks and was always eager for what the next thing was that he was going to learn.  In fact, that teacher had cautioned me not to hold him back from kindergarten just because he had a Fall birthday; she felt that he was more than ready at nearly five and would be troublesome in school if he had to wait and was bored.  He actually had begun to teach himself to read, and the summer before Kindergarten, he was sounding out small words on his own.

The second doctor also sent home a questionnaire for DS1's teacher to fill out.  But he never, ever interacted with DS1 himself, or observed DS1 in any way.  So, when he said "Let's try putting him on Ritalin, it might be ADHD", I went off in search of a doctor who would actually look at DS1 himself.  I mean, if a doctor wouldn't prescribe an antibiotic over the phone for an ill child just based on the mother's description of how the child was behaving and what it's vitals were, but insisted on the child being brought in for examination first, how in all honesty and accuracy could they prescribe behavior altering drugs without actually watching or talking to the child?

Doctor #3, who if I remember right also had training in child psychology or psychiatry or something, did the testing I had been looking for.  A detailed, complete evaluation.  One whose questionnaire began with questions about the pregnancy itself (including mother's health and nutrition), any complications during labor or delivery, development/illnesses/injuries of the child since birth, home life, and school history.  Then there was a long and detailed form for DS1's teacher to fill out on separate days (I think) three times a week for two weeks running.  And, on top of that, two sessions with DS1 and the doctor; one with me in the room, and the second one on a different date of about twenty minutes of just the doctor and DS1 (with a staff member witnessing).

Finally!  Finally!  Finally!  And the outcome of this was that DS1 did seem distractible enough to warrant a trial period on medication.  If the meds helped, then he most likely had ADHD and should continue on them.  If they didn't help (because for kids who don't actually have ADD/ADHD, this med would make them even less focused and more jumpy) then we would discontinue them.

Well, for two weeks I faithfully gave DS1 his pill.  For two weeks, his teacher filled out a daily evaluation form in regards to his classroom behavior (she didn't see much change).  For two weeks, I also had sheets to fill out about his behavior at home.  For two weeks, DS1 had trouble sleeping.  For two weeks, DS1 had a nosebleed nearly daily--and he'd never had nosebleeds before.

At the end of two weeks, we took him off the meds.   It pretty much corresponded with the end of the school year, so DH and I decided that for the summer, we'd take a break from any further seeking of medical fixes for DS1's classroom energy issues.

More of the saga to come in my next post.