Living with a twice exceptional kid who has ADHD & Executive Functioning difficulties means that many times the final step of any process is never completed. Toilet is never flushed. Bath never drained. Milk sitting out. Medicine bottles without lids. This gets more exaggerated when Lily has a friend over.
Lily doesn’t have a lot of close friends. Her best friend moved away when she was 2nd grade and she still hasn’t gotten over it. Her old BFF was the perfect partner for Lily—calm, organized and wise. Lily hasn’t found anyone to take her place. But there’s a girl who lives nearby who often asks Lily to play.
She is similar to Lily in some ways… she can be unfocused, but is very creative. I like that they play in an age-appropriate, creative, imaginative way. It’s never about boys, clothes, makeup or cell phones. They climb trees, ice skate, build forts and invent craft projects.
This girl spent the night recently and the two of them made a path through the house, strewn with their creative projects, which I only discovered later. I was out of the picture because I tweaked my back earlier in the day and was stuck laying down, waiting out the muscle spasms. Little did I know what was going on upstairs. I should have guessed.
The next morning, I was bummed to see that it looked like a tornado had gone through the house. The dining room table was covered with their art project that involved a hot glue gun, toothpicks and paint. They had made pancakes and there was pool of syrup in the microwave, a plate of half-eaten pancakes on the floor, and a glass of syrup stuck to the stovetop. There were costumes all over the living room floor and in the office, tape, scissors and glue sticks were spilled out of a drawer. The final straw came when I went to take a bath, which I thought would be easier on my back, and found a ring of something disgusting in the tub. Turns out it was peanut butter. Of course.
The girls apparently had a ‘spa’ in the bathroom. Their crusty bowl of peanut butter and chocolate was still on the bathroom counter.
On one hand, I admire their creativity, but on the other, I was furious The house was spotless 2 days ago, because I splurged and had a cleaning person come in. Now, it was trashed again.
Not that she doesn’t make messes constantly anyway, but when Lily has a friend over, she becomes so focused on playing that she thinks of nothing else. She doesn’t stop to think things through. Lily was so pre-occupied with having fun with her friend that it didn’t occur to her that giving each other peanut butter-chocolate facials was probably not such a good idea. Cleaning up her messes doesn’t even cross her mind.
I brought this up with Dr. K in our session with him this week. As soon as I started, Lily began to get angry and defensive. Dr. K stopped her and asked her to listen to what I had to say without getting emotional. They’ve been working on this a lot lately and Lily is getting much better at controlling her emotional response to criticism.
Dr. K tells her to put a ‘mellow bubble’ around herself when she listens. He also tells her she has to learn that it’s okay for people to get upset with her when she makes mistakes. If she doesn’t use the tools she has and makes a mistake that affects other people, they will get upset with her and she needs to apologize and try to do better next time. All good lessons for ADHD folks, who sometimes go through life with people upset with them for being late, forgetting things and making messes.
As far as the slumber party mess-making, Dr. K reminded Lily about one of his mantras for ADHD kids.. DO IT NOW. I think Lily usually intends to clean up her messes ‘later’ but then she forgets.
His other advice for ADHD kids—SAME WAY EVERY TIME, an attempt to create routine and reduce forgetfulness.
It was a great discussion and Lily is making huge strides in controlling her emotions, but I don’t think there’s an end to the mess-making anytime soon.
The race to the end of the school year has begun and Lily is off to a good start. We all survived the first day of middle school. Lily even described it as ‘awesome’. Hmm… that’s never happened before. Of course, they haven’t started doing any work yet, but she still was able to manage the stress and anxiety of a chaotic, new situation.
She was okay in the morning, in good spirits, until it was time to get out of the car. She got very flustered… which side should I get out on? how do I cross the street? which way to I go after I cross the street? should I get out now? I tried to explain calmly and she was able to pull it together and get out of the car. Her sister and I watched her walk away and Zoolander said, “That stressed me out.” Agreed.
I thought about her all day. What’s she doing now? Is she doing alright? Is she freaking out and the school is going to call me any minute?
Lily called when she got home on the bus. She was bubbly and happy and said it went great. She told me that she started to get freaked out once when she got to her locker in the morning and wasn’t sure what she was supposed to take to class. So, she said she just thought about it and decided to wait for the girl who has the locker next to her and figure it out. Great self-talk and problem solving to control her emotions. When we met with Lily’s psychologist the next day he was proud of her and we all had a long discussion about self-talk and the different types of self-talk, which led into our next topic… math.
Lily got upset when we talked about math, but instead of getting frustrated and shutting down like she usually does when she has to face a difficult topic, she really hung in there and talked about her worries. She’s very anxious about the math knowledge she is missing and has convinced herself that she will not be successful, which, after what she’s been through at school, is understandable.
I tried to explain to her that we chose the math program she’s in for several reasons, one of which is that her teachers feel that it’s better for a learner like herself. I told her that she has such a unique mind that none of us really know what is exactly right for her but that we’re all trying to figure it out. DR talked to her about staying positive and keeping an open mind and trusting that we’re all trying to help her. I told Lily that I would ask the school for some answers to her questions and that seemed to help.
On a more fun note, I took Lily and sis to the racetrack near our house today for the Super Chevy Car Show.
I promised I would take her because she loves cars.
We got to the car show at the end of the day and it looked like it was almost over. She was immediately worried that we had missed it. The ticket windows were closed so I told her that we would just walk in. She said she felt uncomfortable about that. Lily is very black and white about rules. I had to force her to go in and she was mad. I ignored it. After looking at a few cars, she got over it and had a great time.
|NOT a Corvette|
In Kindergarten, Lily told us she wanted to be a car designer and still loves cars. Currently, she loves Corvettes. It’s their round tail lights that she says she loves. She asked if she could get a Corvette when she turns 16. I told her that they aren’t very good in the snow. When she was in the midwest this summer, visiting Grandma and Grandpa for 2 weeks, they surprised Lily with a visit to the home of a member of the local Corvette club. Lily got to take a ride in the women’s Corvette convertible and Lily said it was the best day of her life!
Ahhh, adjustability. Tonight, Lily had a great night… mostly. When I came home from work, she had dinner ready and the table set. She had made soup from scratch using beef bouillon, chipotle seasoning, an assortment of spices and kale. It was actually pretty delicious. She also made grilled cheese sandwiches in the microwave, which were not quite as good, but she said she had given me the softest one!
This girl is definitely not a recipe cook. She likes to dream up concoctions, which are usually surprisingly tasty. She’s already kind of a ‘foodie’. She’s always had gourmet taste. As a toddler, she ate all the exotic olives off the Thanksgiving relish tray. She never liked ‘kid’ foods and preferred more adult flavors… loves lemon, balsamic vinegar, sushi and wasabi. She says the milk at the grocery store tastes like the carton and that’s the reason we get fresh milk delivered.
We were on track for a smooth evening when, just before bed, Zoolander told me that Lily was in her room sobbing about the new couch we bought while she was at camp.
Dad, sister and I had actually discussed this at the furniture store. I suggested taking a picture of the couch and sending it to her at camp so she wouldn’t be caught off-guard when she came home. They wanted to surprise her. They won and Lily seemed okay with it at first, but she eventually lost it and cried and cried for the couch that she professed she loved. She said she hated the new couch, but I cuddled with her on the new couch and explained exactly why we bought it until she calmed down and she finally decided that it was pretty comfortable. Sometimes she just needs someone to help her walk through something and then she’s fine. Couch crisis averted.
“Lily”, she wants to be called. That’s her code name, “Lily”, my oldest twice exceptional daughter. She’s 10. My youngest daughter, 8, requested the faux name, “Zoolander”. So now you know.
Anyway, “Lily” has been away at summer camp. 2 weeks. Sleepover. We missed her terribly and worried every day. Would we get a call from camp because Lily was having trouble? Maybe she would get upset about something and be unable to recover… What if there’s a change in plans, like horseback riding instead of swimming time, and Lily gets frustrated with the unexpected change? What if there are rowdy games that are too loud and chaotic and Lily gets too overwhelmed? What if the girls in her cabin are more socially advanced than Lily and she doesn’t fit in? Maybe they talk about boys and pedicures and don’t get Lily’s quirky sense of humor or her interest in Corvettes & herbal remedies?
I don’t know. We have to be prepared for a phone call, because whenever we get comfortable and expect that Lily will go through life like everyone else, we’re caught off guard by a phone call about Lily.
I didn’t leave any special instructions or tips for Lily’s camp counselors. I felt like it was either all or nothing. Sometimes, I think I should just write a ‘Guide to Lily” that I hand out to everyone who comes in contact with her. But I know an instruction manual isn’t the answer. I’d like Lily to eventually know herself well enough to be able to advocate for herself, to ask for what she needs to be more comfortable in the world.
We did receive a postcard from one of Lily’s counselors while she was gone. It said that Lily is ‘definitely an amazing free spirit who isn’t afraid to explore and step out of her box. She has really been into participating in Wilderness Exploration and loves to learn about plants.’ That didn’t surprise us. Earlier in the summer, she pored over a book about edible plants and said she wanted to grow up to be the kind of witch who heals people with plants.We were relieved by the postcard. Sounds like her counselors really get her… Lily is definitely ‘an amazing free spirit.’
When Lily saw the three of us walking up the path to her cabin she bolted toward us and plowed right into her sister, grabbed her and they hugged each other for a long time. Lily told Zoolander, “I love you!” Then she dragged us to her cabin. She immediately showed us the bracelet she’d been awarded in a special ceremony the night before. On it was a wine glass, tipped over with wine spilling out. It was supposed to represent a trait and strength that each girl had demonstrated at camp. Lily excitedly told us that her bracelet represented ‘adjustability’. My throat immediately tightened. I blinked to stop my eyes from stinging.
Lily’s counselor pulled me to the side and asked, “Does she have a hard time with loud noises at home?” “Yes”, I answered. “Well, she was amazingly flexible this week and just really worked hard on being adjustable and going with the flow.” She seemed to be referring to a specific incident, but my mind was stuck, wondering… how did they know that flexibility is one of things that she has a hard time with and was something that we’ve been working on–regulating her emotional response to changes, part of her struggle with her Executive Functioning. It still freaks me out that her college-age counselors showed such insight. Do they train them to do that?
As we left, I watched carefully as Lily said goodbye to her bunk mates. They all seemed to like her and I didn’t see anything unusual in their interactions. Lily was over the moon the rest of the day, full of stories and songs about camp. I asked her if the overturned wine goblet on her bracelet meant that she shouldn’t cry over spilled wine and she laughed. She told us that the girls in her cabin were full of ‘drama’, but she did meet another girl who will be going to her middle school this fall, in the same grade. One more familiar face to help with the transition… I hope.