Category Archives: Jillian

To The Mother of the Kids Down The Street

Yeah, I saw you this morning when you were walking your kids to school. You don’t have to pass right by my house, but you chose to. It’s unfortunate that I was walking my kid to the bus stop at the same time. Or perhaps it was deliberate, I don’t know and to be quite honest, I don’t really care.

Did I stop to speak to you? No.

Did I even look in your direction? No.



Your kids and my kid tried that whole friendship thing. Over the course of two years I watched as things would ebb and flow between them, and I stayed out of it for the most part. Kids will be kids, and a large part of growing up is learning to navigate the social flow. As an only child, my daughter struggles with it a little bit. Your kids have each other to pummel and negotiate with.

The first time, Jillian came home from the playground in tears because your son wouldn’t leave her alone. I didn’t press for details but I did gather that she’d asked him to stop and he would not, and it progressed to him hitting her. Maybe it was in jest, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I asked you to talk with your son about putting hands on my daughter and that bit of business stopped.

The second time (and a few times thereafter), she came home in tears because your daughter said she didn’t want to be friends anymore. I didn’t get involved because that is normal little-girl behavior and it tends to work itself out. A few days later, they were palling around the neighborhood as if nothing had happened.

Then we have the incident from a couple of weeks ago. Jillian comes home from the playground in tears (AGAIN), and when I asked what happened, I got a garbled mess of what sounds like an attempt at bullying and ended with “[Your kid] hit me.”

That’s when I stepped in. I told Jillian in no uncertain terms that if ANY of your children EVER hit her again, she has my permission and my blessing and my support to give it back as good as she gets. I’ve even told her where on the body she should aim.

After I calmed her down and cheered her up, I sent you a note saying that while I understand kids mess around, if yours can’t control themselves around my kid, then we’re going to have to have a talk. I know you’ve said that I think I’m better than everyone else, and that’s mostly true. I might not be better than everyone else, but I’m miles ahead of you because I’m not raising a bully. Or two, as the case may be.

And that’s why I didn’t even look in your direction this morning.

It’s not that I’m ignoring you, it’s that you simply don’t exist.

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My ADHD Life – The End of Year One

The cat is licking a hammer.

I was composing the opening line for this post as I walked toward the back door to let the dogs out into the backyard and I happened to glance at the cat. He’s sitting on the ledge next to our basement steps (where things that are supposed to go downstairs are put), licking a hammer that’s been sitting there for oh, a good few weeks now.

If this isn’t a perfect snapshot of what my life is like, I don’t know what is.

Roughly a year ago, we had reached our limit with Jillian and her relationship with the school. We’d been told by two doctors and three therapists that “she’s fine! She’s very smart, she’s bored in school, can you work with the teacher to get her more challenging things to do?” So we’d talked to the teacher, who agreed that Jillian is very smart, but that the challenging bit was to get her to sit down and shut up and stop singing and/or bursting into tears over every little thing.

“But it’s not ADHD, we don’t think.” Oh, okay. I do not have a medical degree, therefore I trusted the second opinion, the third opinion, all the way up to the fifth opinion I got when discussing Jillian’s struggles. Yet, nothing we did for her was effective. Not a damn thing, from rewards/sanctions to behavior mods. Nothing had any effect on her behavior whatsoever.

She was starting to suffer, and worse – she was starting to notice. She had become That Kid, and was being left out of things like playground cliques and birthday parties and other social gatherings that all of her classmates were invited to. The gossip grapevine in this town is VERY strong, and even though I’m not an active participant (I have my three friends and that’s enough for me), I could see that things were happening around her that she wasn’t being invited to.

I snapped. I finally lost it. I had A Talk with the pediatrician, who tried to assure me YET AGAIN that “she’s fine, she doesn’t have ADHD.” Screen her, I said. We have, they replied. Oh, you mean a bullshit 10-second interview about how she likes school? Isn’t there something, oh I don’t know, FORMAL we could try? “We just don’t think her behavior is severe enough to warrant something like that. And your insurance likely won’t cover it.”

Well, thanks, Doc. I appreciate you trying to save me some cash, but my child is having a really hard time and if my instincts are correct (THEY ALWAYS ARE), then perhaps we can get ahead of this thing and HELP HER.

We got a recommendation from a therapist we know and trust and took Jillian to YET ANOTHER DOCTOR to have her checked out. I cannot say enough good things about this experience. From top to bottom, working with this office and this medical team has been a parent’s dream. They were absolutely interested in hearing about our experiences and our struggles and they listened to what we had to say. Bottom line, THEY TOOK THE TIME. The regular pediatrician is more of a meat-grinder operation: get as many people through those doors as possible. This, not so much. They took the time.

A full physical checkup for Jillian was first. Then they gave her a battery of tests, from IQ to whatever else, maybe the SAT and the ASVAB, too. I don’t know, but it was a lot. The doctor observed her while she hammered out the tests, and after that they sent her to the play area to hang out (and be observed) while they scored the tests and talked with us.

I cried twice. I had been so frustrated and upset for so long, it was so amazing to hear someone say “yes, we think you’re right about that.” I’m her mother. I know her inside and out, of course I’m right. After a bit, the tests were scored and all three of us met with the doctor to discuss the results.

One feature of my own personal medical life is that any doctor who has a look at me goes “…wow.” Yes, I know. My body subscribes to the “go big or go home” philosophy (in more ways that one, hahahaha), and when something on me requires a doctor’s attention, it REALLY does. Jillian seems to follow this line as well.

The result: off the charts. IQ? Off the charts (we’re terrified of this). ADHD? OFF THE DAMN CHARTS.

I knew it. I KNEW IT! I FUCKING KNEW IT. Back when she was in kindergarten, I knew it.

And so, a diagnosis was reached. While medication was definitely offered as a solution, I wanted to hold off on that until we’d exhausted every other option available including school intervention, etc. We met with the school’s IEP team and had a nice chat with them and it was determined that she didn’t qualify for an IEP or other “offical” accommodations as defined by law but that they’d do whatever we all thought was necessary to help her out anyway.

A couple of months of that, and things improved a little, but she was still struggling and every day was a battle for her. That’s when we decided to look at medication. There is A LOT of bullshit out there about how kids are “overmedicated” and there is a lot of vitriol directed at parents who apparently jump to give their kids meds because that’s the “easy way” of controlling this kind of behavior. While I don’t doubt that there are parents out there who do this, my guess is that the overwhelming majority of people who decide to medicate their kids do so with a lot of fear and trepidation and regret. It’s not an easy decision to make and it’s definitely not something I talk a lot about because the first person who gets in my face and tells me I’m a bad mother for giving my kid meds, well, I’m going to eviscerate that person and then set them on fire and then drive my car over their ashes before I let my dogs poop on them.

The medication has made all the difference. I used to flinch when an email from Jillian’s teacher would pop up in my inbox because it was NEVER good news. NEVER. Not once. They’d been coming weekly, and it was never good. Now? I haven’t heard from Jillian’s teacher unless I contact her first and the news is almost always overwhelmingly positive. She’s a good student and a good kid and is able to control herself so much more now. You can’t argue with results.

Sure, she’s still a little bit loud and kind of a maniac and she’s got an uphill battle, socially. I know she will eventually find her tribe, but I hope she’s not scarred for life before that happens. But the difference between this 4th grade year and the years before it are like night and day. Whenever I doubt my decision to put her on medication, I remember that.

So here we are, a year later. Some days are better than others – mornings will never not be a struggle because that pill doesn’t kick in for about a half-hour. So every day is still exactly the same. “Get up. No, get up NOW. GET UP. Eat. Please eat. Please stop talking and eat. Are you supposed to be doing that while you eat? GO EAT. Where are you going? Why didn’t you pee when you got up? Get dressed. NOW. It will be cold in the morning and warm in the afternoon. GET. DRESSED. It’s PE today, so where are your sneakers? Why aren’t you wearing pants? Where is your backpack? Are you making your lunch or buying it? Do you have your snack? You have to leave in 10 minutes, GO GET DRESSED. Brush your hair. Fine, I’ll do it, come here. GET DRESSED. No, you don’t need an umbrella. Do you have your house key? Fine, see you later.”

Every. Day. Every day is brand new for her, and it will likely never be an automatic process. She’ll never just… get up and go to school, fully dressed, with everything she needs tucked safely in her backpack. If I don’t steer her, she’ll get up and eat breakfast (maybe) then have a dance party in her room for 45 minutes. She’ll watch the cat watching birds out the window. She’ll get lost in a book and forget what time it is.

All of these are lovely things, but not on school days. Weekends are better, usually.

What I found interesting was that her ADHD diagnosis led to my own ADHD diagnosis. After reading through her test results and having all the bells in my head ringing like a royal wedding, I went to my own therapist and said “let’s see where I land.” Well, well, well. WELLITY WELLITY WELLITY. ADHD all up and down the joint. My therapist said it’s very likely that I’ve always had it and that is probably the culprit for a lot (a very lot) of the various issues I faced in my late teens/early 20’s (also known as The Disaster Years). ADHD is probably the reason for all of it.

WHAT A BREAKTHROUGH. There’s a good reason why I haven’t been writing much on thishere blog, you know. I tend to write when I’m upset or anxious or frustrated or angry, and I haven’t been those things very often since I figured it out. I stopped a lot of self-blame and let go of a LOT of guilt and shame about the fact that I’m almost 41 and I’d be the World’s Greatest Slacker if I could just get around to submitting the forms.

It’s not that I don’t want to or that I forgot to do things – it’s that I just literally CANNOT. It’s not a personality flaw, after all! Oh, trust me – I still have myriad personality flaws, but my historical flakiness isn’t actually one of them. WOO HOO! Or something. It was amazing to me to realize that my inability to follow through on so many things isn’t because I personally suck at life – I have/had this invisible barrier in front of me all this time!

That knowledge has transformed my life over this past year. The anxiety/depression cycle I used to churn around in has abated somewhat. I am almost completely off the anxiety/depression meds I’d been on for years and years, and I feel amazing. I feel things, period. That’s new.

Now that I know the WHY of things, I am better at getting around it. I know that I have a limited amount of fucks to give every day. And once those are given out, there are no more, so I have to apportion them appropriately. It’s getting better. I’m considering medication, but as an adult with ADHD, getting meds is really fucking hard because most of the ones used to treat ADHD are also taken recreationally. That’s a problem, but not one I need to solve at the moment.

As for Jillian, she is improving as well. If you consider every day a race, most people line up at the starting line and go when the gun goes off. Jillian’s normal starting point is about 200 yards back, which means she has to go that much farther every day just to get started. Having the medication available to her put her maybe not ON the starting line, but a hell of a lot closer than 200 yards. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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The Hard Things

One of the hardest things I am called upon to do as a parent is to stay out of the various playground scuffles that Jillian finds herself involved in. She doesn’t have trouble making friends, but keeping them is a different matter altogether. She’s just exactly who she is and that doesn’t always translate well to interpersonal relationships.

I should know.

I know, in my heart of hearts, that she will be okay. She IS okay. She will find her tribe, and everything will be fine. The ability to be your true self when everyone around you is putting on masks is such a rare thing, and I think Jillian has that. It’s just so hard to watch her tiny face crumple when she comes home from the playground all upset and I ask “what’s wrong?” She’s a sensitive wee soul, and I have worked mighty hard to protect and nurture that. She’s never mean to other kids, and is usually baffled and confused when kids are mean to her.

My poor baby girl. I want to punch those other children. Alas, the best I will be able to do is make a voodoo doll of the culprit and stick all the pins I own into it.

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Flipping a Switch

Friday ended Jillian’s first full week on 10mg of Focalin. I checked in with her teachers to see what they thought about it, and they were both very pleased with her improvement. She’s closer to the “normal” range of third-grader-ness, in that she gets most of her work done with minimal (that word!) intervention, and the attention paid to her is commensurate with the attention paid to the rest of the class. It’s a nice change from having her in a bright spotlight.

Obviously, we want her to have the full effects of her medication while she’s at school. That’s how this is supposed to work. The downside is that her behavior at home isn’t all that different. The extended-release version of Focalin (which is what Jillian takes) is meant to last about 10-12 hours. So I give it to her at breakfast (7:30AM) and by dinnertime, the effects are starting to wear off and it is noticeable.

It’s like flipping a switch. You can see it in her face, a bit like in Harry Potter when Harry and Ron take Polyjuice Potion and their faces contort and writhe around while they’re in the process of changing to someone else. It’s almost exactly like that – you can see her face change, and then the noises start up again, the inability to sit on a chair correctly comes back, and the talking starts.


Since that’s our “normal,” it’s not so bad. We’ve had quite a few years of dealing with it, after all. But it’s never not exhausting, both for us and for her. As with anything, we adapt. As long as she can get through her days, we can deal with the rest.

Overall, I’m pleased with how things are going. I wish we would have started this process earlier, but we kept bumping up against that stigma of “oh, people just throw pills at problems instead of looking for other solutions.” I can’t say I feel guilty about doing this, because I don’t really believe in parenting guilt and also because I know we did so much to try to avoid medication. We tried environmental changes, diet changes, behavioral interventions, the whole thing. But this? THIS WORKS.

Now we’re learning about balance. Today being a Sunday, we don’t have anything planned that we’d need Jillian to behave/focus for. So I chose not to give her the pill today. We’ll have to deal with a chatty, emotional, hurricane of a child, but that’s fine. It’s the weekend.

We’re going to continue with this for the summer because I have zero doubt that it will improve her camp experience, and then when school starts again in September, we’ll cross our fingers and hope these improvements her teachers have seen will continue.

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Two Weeks In

Here we are at the end of Week 2: Better Living Through Chemistry. We increased the dose of Focalin to 10mg (half the suggested dose) and are seeing improvements all over the place.

Just to see, we did NOT give Jillian a dose last Sunday, since we didn’t have anything going on, and the difference was very noticeable in her. She was all over the place (back to “normal”) and a hot mess. Her doctor said that it’s perfectly fine to skip days on this drug, but we might not do that very often.

Mornings are still tough, but they would be, wouldn’t they? She takes her pills with breakfast and they don’t take effect for a little while, so mornings are as they’ve always been. Still, we should see some changes as we go forward, since it won’t take such a Herculean effort for her to get through her days and that energy savings (for lack of a better term) will spill over to mornings. I hope.

With the extended-release form of Focalin, we can expect to get a good 10-12 hours out of Jillian’s day. On Wednesday, it was very obvious when it started to wear off, since we were at softball. Jill was in the outfield and as I was watching her, I could see her revving up. In the span of 20 minutes or so, she went from standing still and paying attention to dance moves and the R2-D2 noises that characterize her need to make sounds.

Those are considered ‘tics’ but she definitely does not suffer from Tourette’s Syndrome. It’s just how her ADHD manifests. Some kids need to move around and destroy things, Jillian needs to dance and talk and make all the noises. And talk. With the talking. SO MUCH TALKING.

Overall, everyone is happier now. I think Jillian is doing better with her behavior at school, which was our #1 issue in the first place. I wish schools were a little more open to dealing with kids who can’t sit still, but public school is what it is, and that’s the framework in which we have to operate.

At the end of next week, we’ll re-assess and see if we need to jump the dose up a bit. I think we will, only because she’s a pretty extreme human and we need to reel her back in just a little more. For now. My hope is that she will start to make the connections between her behavior and the results she gets and that the good behavior will be more automatic in the future. Or, at the very least, she’ll have more control and be able to choose how to react to things instead of the full-tilt boogie freakouts we’re used to.

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How We Got Here

Our first weekend with a partially-medicated child is in the books. I say “partially” because we are in the ramping-up phase and she’s only taking about a quarter of the recommended dose of Focalin at the moment.

Initial thoughts: possible placebo effect in place. We explained to Jillian what this pill is and what it’s for and there was a slight uptick in good behavior on Friday and over the weekend. Could go either way. Overall, it was situation normal up in here.

One of the strangest parenting phenomena I’ve encountered is that we have to teach children things we don’t really remember learning. Walking, talking, potty training… all that stuff needs to be learned but very few of us remember learning it so we make up the teaching of it as we go along. And then there are things like hair-brushing. How to take a pill. Things like that.

After two days of it, Jillian learned how to swallow her pill on the first try. We’ll see what happens next week when she has to take two. And then the week after that when she has to take three. The first time, though – I was kind of stumped. How to explain something so basic in a way that a maniac child can understand? That was fun, and we got through it with laughing and water dribbling everywhere, because some people feel the need to ask questions with a mouth full of water.

More than a few people have reached out to me, asking “how did you get to this place?”

When Jillian started Pre-K, I was filled with trepidation. She and I had spent nearly every minute of her first 4.5 years together, and I was anxious about sending her off to somewhere else for a couple of hours every day. I was in tune with her needs and quirks and her Special Snowflake-ness and I was concerned that someone else wouldn’t guard that as fiercely as I would. I worried about My Precious Baby and hoped she’d be all right, make friends, learn stuff, and start taking steps into her own world, and out of mine.

The initial reports were positive: “Jillian is a cheerful and sunny presence!”

Then they got weird: “Jillian tends to… scream when she’s excited about something.”

And more: “Jillian cries easily, and is easily frustrated.”

“But she’s very smart!”

“Jillian cannot sit still in circle time.”

…and we were off to the races. At first, I figured “whatever, it’s Pre-K, they’re all maniacs at that age.” In the very back of my mind, however, the alarm bells were starting to ring.

One of the things I tell new mothers is “trust your instincts.” And mine were telling me that something wasn’t quite right.

I made tentative inquiries: “do you think Jillian is… normal?” Oh, she’s fine. She’s spirited! She’ll grow out of it.

But she didn’t. Kindergarten was more of the same. Every now and then, Jillian would have a particularly bad day and be escorted to pickup by her teacher who would give me a rueful smile and say “Jillian had a bad day.”

Oh, but she’s fine! This is all normal for this age! She’s clearly very smart, maybe a little emotional, but she’ll grow out of it!

First grade: more of the same again, some more. “Jillian is great, but…”


That’s when we started asking: “Is she bored? Academically, she is doing very well. Could it be that she simply needs more stimulation in that area?”

Wellllll sure. Maybe. So we worked with her teacher to come up with some ideas of what Jillian could do when she found herself with some free time. At first, she seemed really gung-ho about it, but could never quite gain the focus needed to actually DO anything about it. Sigh.

Second grade was when the shit really started to hit the fan. We’d been fortunate up to then with Jillian’s teachers, in that they were all lovely people who understood Jill fairly well and occasionally went out of their way to make sure she was pointed in the right direction. I’m sure they were frustrated with her at times (just like we were), but they never showed her anything but caring and concern and a willingness to help us figure out what makes that kid tick.

So we believed them when they said she’s normal, she’s fine, she’ll grow out of it.

But second grade… ugh. Second grade sucked.

I get it – teachers have a lot of kids and a lot of curriculum to get through. They don’t have the time to be re-directing and re-focusing my child 54 times an hour. Jillian spent a good chunk of time in the principal’s office during 2nd grade, because her teachers simply could not deal with her. Or would not. The tone of the emails that came home was not great, let’s say, and that’s when we decided to have her evaluated for the first time.

First stop: pediatrician. “Nope, she seems fine to us. No, we don’t feel that she needs to be screened for ADHD. After all, she’s a girl, her academic grades are stellar, she’s just high-strung and emotional, that’s all!”


Next stop: hippie-dippie social worker. “I don’t think Jillian has ADHD. She’s very high energy and maybe you could try some mindfulness work with her. I suggest yoga and maybe meditation.”


And we tried. We tried everything they suggested, from dietary changes to basic yoga poses to deep breaths to “finding a happy place” to a rubber band on the arm to having a note taped to her desk that says “please work quietly” to rewards to punishments to flat-out PAYING her to behave herself. Nothing worked. Nothing motivated this kid to change her behavior in any way and and and and and and AND!!

Second grade finally came to a close. Everyone was upset and exhausted and frustrated and that’s when I started looking at private school alternatives for her, since it was clear to me that public school just wasn’t working for her. But the options available to us were either not quite right or they were perfect, but astronomically expensive.

We sent Jillian to theater camp that summer. She seemed interested, and it seemed like it would be chaotic enough that her particular brand of zany would be more tolerated. That went VERY well. She had a few bumps along the way, but having the freedom to be as prolifically creative as she can be was a good experience for her. She’s doing that camp again this year, and I hope the experience is as good the second time around.

Third grade started with a lot of promise. I spoke with her teachers on Meet The Teacher day and let them know that Jillian was a bit hard to handle. I know teachers talk and so I’m confident they were already familiar with her, but I wanted to let them know that I knew what she’s like and that we were doing what we could to try to rein her in.


“Jillian is great, but…”
“Please help us work with her on getting her to settle down.”

By November, I had reached the end of my rope. I met with the pediatrician AGAIN and they told me AGAIN that they didn’t see any cause for concern. O RLY?? I got a second opinion, same thing. Saw another social worker therapist, same thing.

But remember those instincts? Alllll my alarm bells were going full clang, and so I finally got a referral from a therapist I know and trust. She referred us to the Child Development Center at Hunterdon Medical. We scheduled a full evaluation on this kid, from head to toe, inside and out. The initial paperwork for this thing was 21 pages long, but we got it all filled out and submitted.

And lo, the heavens parted, and the angels did sing.

We spent 5 hours there. They did a physical assessment first, then the doctor sat with us while Jillian did some drawings (also part of the assessment). He walked us through Jillian’s issues and challenges, step by step. He talked with us about some of our frustrations and some of the walls we’d been bashing our heads against. Then we went to the waiting room and he talked with Jillian.

They also gave her a battery of tests, from the ADHD screeners to the IQ tests, and she scored on the extreme edge of them all. Extremely high IQ (higher than mine, even, and I am a goddamned genius). Extreme ADHD.


Well then.

Now we’re getting somewhere. We left that meeting armed with information and resources that were designed to help us get a handle on our tiny maniac and try to get her to… well, if not get in step with the rest of the kids, at least to march in the same band, if you know what I mean.

We decided that medication would be a “last-resort” thing, since we honestly did want to exhaust all other avenues before going that far. We wanted to know that we tried everything we could. So we did! We met with the school and discussed the possibility of getting a 504 plan in place. We didn’t think she needed to go quite so far as to have an IEP, but a 504 definitely seemed like a good idea. A two-hour meeting was held and we left there feeling hopeful that they would at least try to work WITH Jillian and not against her.

Turns out, her ADHD isn’t quite severe enough for the school to put a formal plan in place (which I think is odd, since her doctor was all “whoa, look at this shit” when looking at her screener results), but they would help her with some basic accommodations, such as a gel seat (for fidgeting) and some extra time for tests (due to focus issues).

All that in place and… no change in behavior. These accommodations weren’t hurting anyone, but they certainly didn’t seem to be making any difference whatsoever. So, after about 5 months of this, we decided on medication.

And that’s how we got here. So far, so good, and I hope that a month from now, when Jillian is on the full dose, we can report a night-and-day situation with regards to our tiny maniac. I am a teeeeny bit concerned that medicating her will dim the disco ball that is my child, but I also think that light is strong enough to shine through whatever we put on her.

Time will tell.

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Day One

A couple of weeks ago, we made the very tough decision to put Jillian on some kind of medication for her ADHD. I have a feeling this will be one of those things that we wish we’d done years ago, but oh well – we’re here now.

It was a tough decision, but I’m happy with it. I did a lot of research and we tried lots of other non-medication interventions with her (indeed, we’ve been doing these things for years already with no results). But it was still hard to say “yes, let’s do this.” There is SUCH a stigma surrounding anything related to mental health, and ADHD is no different.

I’m not immune – I barely even believed that ADHD was even a “real” thing until Jillian and I were both diagnosed with it. Once we went through all the testing, it seemed obvious to me that this is what Jillian has been battling for years. Me, too. But… drugs! In my wee child’s body! I had a lot of trouble coming to terms with that.

But! But. Lots and lots of people I talked to who are taking or have taken medication for ADHD have said that it literally changed their entire life. They described a life that was a lot like Jillian’s has been: full of frustration and exasperation and sheer exhaustion from just getting through the day. Lots of these people said “if she were physically ill and medication could treat it, you wouldn’t blink an eye, right?”

Well, right. After all, her eyes don’t work correctly and she wears glasses. This is really no different.

Today was Day 1 of our Brave New World. We have Jillian taking a tiny dose of Focalin, and in a week we will assess her and chat with the doctor and he will probably up her dose. Lather, rinse, repeat until she’s at the full dose recommended for her height and weight. During that time, we’ll be watching her like nervous hawks to see if any side-effects make themselves known. Fingers crossed that everything goes all right. Today was a fairly successful day for Jillian after what has apparently been a rather difficult week.

Her doctor said that ADHD is one of the very few things that has a “magic bullet.” The response rate and success rate of kids on ADHD drugs is SO high, that he’s confident Jillian will be all right. Personally, I’m terrified – her IQ is higher than mine and if we can get her to focus and get her shit together, we’ll all be working for her sooner rather than later.

You’ve been warned, everyone.


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In Which I Barely Believe

Everyone’s child is a Special Snowflake. Some, more than others.

Mine, more than most, apparently.

She was a more or less effortless baby, who grew into a chatty toddler. Then we sent her to preschool and the fun began. “Jillian is great, but… she screeches.”

We know. The child is enthusiastic about life and that used to manifest as a window-shattering screech. Lucky for all of us, there were only 6 kids in her preschool class and she was easily managed.

Then Kindergarten happened. From time to time, Jillian’s teacher would walk her down to dismissal, an apologetic look on her face. A sad look on Jillian’s face. “Jillian is great, but… she is too much.”

We know. Too much talking. Too much moving. Too much too much too much.

“She’ll grow out of it,” the doctor said. Her academic performance was fine, so we nodded and kept on.

First grade. “Jillian is great, but…”

Different doctor: “She’s completely normal, she’ll grow out of it.” You don’t think we should screen her for… ADHD, say? “No.” Okay.

Second grade. “We had to remove Jillian from the classroom today for being disruptive.”

(Second grade was not our favorite grade)

Yet Another Doctor AND TWO THERAPISTS: “She’s fine. She just needs to understand that there are consequences for her behavior. She’ll grow out of it.” Are you SURE we shouldn’t have her screened for ADHD or similar? “Not at all!” Okay.

And now… third grade. “Jillian is great, but…”


The Mama Instinct is a thing that I advise all my friends to heed. It’s there for a reason, and it is very rarely wrong. When the behavior pattern started up again this year, I decided that three doctors and two therapists were out of their minds and had Jillian tested for everything. We were referred to a Developmental Pediatric practice that would be able to take a good hard look at Jill and how she moves through the world. The intake paperwork was thirty pages long and covered everything that has ever happened to her since before birth to now.

A three-hour appointment happened, and they checked her out from head to toe and then spent some time talking with us (and – more importantly – LISTENING TO US) before they worked with her. A battery of tests later, and we have some actual concrete data with which to solve this problem.

The doctor showed us the charts for the intelligence tests he gave Jillian and then he showed us how she is literally off the high end of them. We knew that. The doctor asked us if we thought Jillian was bored in school and I nearly died out of relief. We know she’s smart, she just can’t sit still, ever.

Because: the diagnosis came back as ADHD/Combined. That’s alllllll the ADHD you can have, with extra sprinkles. I knew it. Three doctors and two therapists told me no, but I knew. I’m her mother.

I hate to put that label on her, but it fits. So many of her behaviors are so annoying but now we know that she can’t really help it. The fidgeting, the half-on, half-off the chair (which results in some spectacular falls from time to time), the singing, the constant changing of direction, the inability to focus on more than two directions at a time, etc. It’s all there.

And now we can fix it! Very soon, we shall have the full written evaluation from the doctor. Armed with that, we will get a plan in place at school that will help Jillian survive in the classroom without anyone wanting to wring her neck. I hope that she will be allowed some accommodations for this year’s round of gifted-program testing, which will [we hope] elevate her into that program where she should have been these past two years.

[We could have appealed her test scores but by the time the end of the school year rolls around, we’re all just so exhausted by her that nobody had the mental energy to even know where to begin. So.]

I’ve got a new role, too. Advocate. I am going to be spending the next little while reading everything I can get my hands on about girls with ADHD (because our Special Snowflake is ever so special – of all the kids diagnosed with ADHD, the overwhelming majority of them are boys), coming up with a list of things that her teachers can do for her in the classroom (I hope), making checklists and charts for home, and just… learning to adapt to being an ADHD parent (who maaaaay or may not have undiagnosed ADHD of her own. Let’s just say that a lot of the questions I answered on those forms felt awfully famililar). It’s going to be a busy time.

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The cutest thing

All parents go through a phase with their kids where the questions do. not. end. The questions, MY GOD, the QUESTIONS.

We are well into our 3rd year of non-stop questions here with The Jillian. We have long since gotten past the Louis C.K. answer barrier of “because some things ARE and some things ARE NOT.” (it starts around the 3-minute mark)

Now that she can read, we are doing what my parents did to me. If I had a question, the answer was usually “look it up.” And that was back in the 80’s when we either had to go to the library or look up an answer in our near-antique encyclopedia that someone passed down to us at some point. We also had a huge dictionary with a 1910 copyright, so half the words we used hadn’t even been invented yet. Still, I looked things up and I learned stuff.

In 2012, we have The Google. And yes, we actually refer to it as “The” Google, because it’s totally a thing. Also, that sounds funny when I say it. However, we can’t be letting our six-year-old daughter on The Google because as everyone knows the internet is a weird and scary place and god knows she’ll click on something and the laptop will explode from some Nigerian prince viagra virus. Can’t be having that, so we do the Googling for her.

While I do spend a great deal of time in front of the computer, I’m not about to Google the answers to her questions every time she has one, so I have implemented The Question Book. I bought The Jillian a lovely pink notebook and handed her a pen. She is to write down her questions and then when we have a couple of minutes, we will look for the answers.


Sample questions:

How big is Jupiter?

How big is Mars?

What is the biggest number?

How is ink made?

How is sand made?

It’s so neat to see the things that she is thinking about. Right now she is big into outer space and planets, so lots of her questions deal with those things. And she went to the beach Saturday so I’m sure that’s where the sand question came from.

The Question Book is basically turning me into Supermom (moreso than normal) because it involves writing practice, reading practice, research skills, and fosters a questioning mind. I hope she fills this whole notebook with questions and answers so I can give it to her when she graduates from Harvard (Class of 2028).

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Full of tension and fear

Oooh, fashion.

Jillian is about to start first grade. Since she utterly and completely refuses to stop growing, she needs an entirely new wardrobe for fall.

It used to be easy. We’d go to Old Navy and buy whatever the hell I liked because the kid didn’t care and neither did anyone else. Clothing for toddlers is simple.

Now… oh boy.

Dressing a six-year-old girl is tough, friends. She wants to look cute, and all the stores that cater to that demographic want her to look cute, but there is a surprisingly large area of overlap between “cute” and “streetwalker.” I’m no prude, but I am not dressing my six-year-old daughter up like mid-80’s Madonna. I’m just not.

Luckily for me, Macy’s exists. And Ralph Lauren. If dressing her like a WASP-y prep school student is what it takes to make her not look like a hooker, then sign me up for a pair of pants with little whales embroidered on them. RL for kids is some of the sweetest, cutest clothing I have ever seen. And since it’s Macy’s it’s always on sale.

Seriously, if you’ve ever paid full price for anything at Macy’s you’re doing it wrong.

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