Friday, December 30, 2011

Turn it off

I found this New York Times article posted by a friend on Facebook today.  Not only is it written by the great Pico Iyer, but it concerns something I ponder now daily: turning off our various computers and phones and being present in the moment.  This comes a day after my kids went to a museum surrounded by parents texting and surfing the net while they could have been playing with their kids.  This is precious time lost.  As a distracted parent, I often succumb to the lure of the screen, but I am trying to be more cognizant of this habit and lose it!

Without further ado, Pico Iyer:  The Joy of Quiet

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Surfing U.S. Oy

My plan for today: rest and read.  Not sure how many friends know I suffer with Crohn's Disease, but there you have it, I do.  And when I'm down in the gut, chances are other parts of my body start screaming to just shut it down.  Take a break.  My shoulders or back ache.  Maybe a migraine shows up, just for fun.  My newest enemies are my feet.  Too much holiday standing and walking, I guess.  Today, I gave in.  Sent the husband and kiddos to the Science Center without me.  On the one hand, this saddens me.  I fear my kids will remember their childhood, but not their mom being a participant in any of the fun.  On the other hand, the house is quiet and I can relax.

What I actually did today: prowled the internets for paying jobs.  Nothing says sad like wasting an afternoon looking at help wanteds, even if accompanied by good tea in a strong mug.  I've tried propping my feet, but then I have to do advanced yoga poses to reach my plugged-in computer.  So, instead of the book and bed routine, I've succumbed to extreme distraction of the most depressing variety.  No, I don't seem to qualify for the elephant handler position at the zoo (although it sounds fascinating) and while I do qualify for part-time writing instructor position at one of my alma maters, I'd make more money working at a gas station after all of the hours it requires.

Moral of today's story: fight the net-surfing urge and just curl up with a decent book.  My feet might still ache at the end of such a day, but I bet I'd escape the severe brain fuzzies I now have from scouring the interwebby HR drop-downs.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Write it down

A wise person once told me I needed to get a planner.  I scoffed.  Pish-posh, I put all of my information - important dates and whatnot - on my phone calendar or to-do list and if I remember to set the alert, I am reminded with a darling little beep-beep at intervals I have set.  This method has not proven to be fool-proof.

Organization is a key problem for people with ADD.  While I do as well as, say, the average parent, staying on top of permission slips, fundraising forms, and the like tangles my mind.  Look at the kitchen counter of any parent with ADD and this is what you will see: bills, parent newsletters, coupons, birthday party invitations, catalogs, to-do lists, prescriptions, broken toys, old bananas, articles her dad cut out and sent, a collection of pens that don't work, vitamins and medicine bottles,  and crumbs.  What you won't see is:  the kitchen counter.  I kept things at hand so I wouldn't forget them, even if I had some of them on my iPhone calendar.  Looking at that mess was slowly driving me nuts.  When I described my tangled brain to this wise friend, let's call her "therapist," she recommended the paper planner again and even showed me how she used hers.  I was like a child who finally understood the mechanics behind addition.  "Oh, so you're saying 1+1=2!  That totally makes sense!"

I left "therapist" and drove immediately to a bookstore where I had a gift card and bought the most embarrassing, mommy planner they had.  

And (as my kids ask 14 times an hour), you know what?  It has helped.  The planner has a two columns on every page, for every week of the month - one for Mom and one for Family.  I put my appointments down on one side and my kids' lessons and parties and days off of school on the other.  It's so simple.  In the back of the planner are to-do lists that are perforated so you can yank them out as needed.  The to-do's, entitled "Things I Must Do Immediately," are funny.  They are numbered, with the first item filled in: "Find this list."  I appreciate that Sandra Boyton understands my brain.  On the back of the lists are "Vital Necessities," or shopping lists.  Number 9 is filled in:  Chocolate.  Yes, it has a certain cartoon Cathy humor to it, but it's a tool and I require tools.  There are also blank pages for "Notes for My Novel," "My Kid's Contacts," and "Indecipherable Doodles."

I still use the alerts on my phone, but having that tangible planner in front of me has helped immeasurably.  Oh, and I've also cleaned up the kitchen counter too.  It's called recycling.  I highly recommend it.

If you want to buy your own family planner, here's an Amazon link: Mom's Family Desk Planner although I do recommend finding it in your local, indy bookstore.  They can use the patronage.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Just a trip to Target (or My Frankenmess)

A couple months ago I was running ragged, trying to check items off my endless to-do list, when I decided I would use an hour of free time to hit Target for toilet paper and Scotch tape. This was not a wise plan for two reasons:  I had my four-year-old with me and it was 2:30, nap time.  We had exactly one half hour to shop before we needed to get back in the car and drive to my daughter's school, at least a 20 minute drive from where we were.  Her school lets out at 3:45. 

My son convinced me to wander the toy section but I negotiated with him to get my two items first.  I checked my phone for the time.  3:00.  We needed to leave soon.  I gave him 10 minutes to ogle the toy trains, but I started feeling anxious and gave him the 5-minute warning.  Then a minute later, I gave him the 2-minute warning.  Parents do this.  They take advantage of the fact that four-year-olds can't tell time and don't know the difference between 10 minutes and 2 minutes.  It's sneaky and I feel a little ashamed admitting this.  Toby balked.  "Just one more minute!" he cried.  My tactic with Toby is to a.) keep my voice quiet, especially in public places like Target and b.) walk away.  He does not call my bluff because he definitely does not want to be left.  Only, this time I didn't count on the tired factor upping his resolve.  I walked and stayed quiet.  He stayed put and screamed, "One more minute!"  I turned and gently said, "No, we need to get your sister."  I walked past the electronics and into automotive.  He stayed put and screamed louder, "One more minute!"  People stared at me and I felt like a winner.  I eventually had to pick him up screaming and crying.  I may have bribed him with a lollipop if he quieted down.  It was a disaster.

What I learned from this awesome trip to Target was this: I set him up to fail.  I created this mess.  Toby was acting like a four-year-old, an exhausted, frustrated four-year-old.  Knowing my odds were against me, I chose to put my son in an impossible scenario that resulted in both of us feeling hurt and angry.  Never mind I got to check an item off the to-do list.

Since this fateful Friday of shopping mayhem I have mended my ways.  I no longer try to squeeze productivity into small pockets of time if it's going to stress out either me or my kids, or both.  It's not worth it. If I have a spare hour, I try to be present in that hour and enjoy the time with Toby on our way to my daughter's school.  If we sit in carpool a little longer that day, I bring activity books for him and reading material for me.  Or he can play on my phone while I listen to NPR.

The toilet paper can wait.  We have Kleenex. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011


This is when it gets really bad.  This is when I lose my focus the most, when going to the kitchen to fill my son's cup with orange juice morphs into a search for a hospital bill or a trip to the garden to pull weeds.  This is when I spend more time on my computer, more time on my phone, all of it doing nothing important while my son plays with cars in the next room.  This is when I scold myself the most for being distracted, for getting discouraged, for feeling tired, for losing patience.  It is worse now, as I lose the cushioning structure of hormones and fall head-on into mid-life PMS.

To prove it's not all in my brain, I found many articles on the subject online (and we all know, if it's online, it's true).  This one seems legitimate:

Currently, I'm not doing anything to combat the symptoms.  I'm not on any ADD medication because when I tried two different types it felt like a bullet train was trying to escape my chest cavity.  I'm also not eating great (Chips Ahoy count as a vegetable, right?) and although I've thought about exercising twice this week (!) I still haven't gotten as far as putting on my jogging shoes.  But, I do plan to make changes: exercise, healthier food choices, meditation, yoga.  These will be incremental because I resist change. However, I believe these changes will help my mood, the ADD, and the PMS.

Couldn't hurt.