Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Paper is the Enemy

Image result for how does paper beat rock meme

Supposedly it beats rock.  

I know it beats me.  I spend innumerable moments in a loop of looking for and losing papers, interrupted only by my own effort NOT to lose them.

And Jessica, my favorite ADHD YouTuber, has at least three videos managing it.

At times, I've successfully implemented Jessica's suggestions.  Most of the time, however, I hold myself to two basic rules.

  1. Anything that can be recycled should be recycled.  Immediately.  This includes anything I have digital copies of which could be printed later should I find out that I recycled something I needed.  
  2. Anything that seems vaguely important gets labeled as MONUMENTALLY IMPORTANT and goes into the "AS LONG AS YOU CAN FIND THE STACK, YOU CAN PROBABLY FIND THE PAPER" stack.  There it remains until one of the three random days a year on which I get the urge to file all the papers.  

My rules work for a few reasons. 

  1. As an adult, I have earned the right to keep my papers wherever I want to.  I am accountable only to me and occasionally the DMV. (By the way, as of today I am officially a legally licensed driver who resides at the address known by both the DMV and the voter registration folks.  This is big news.)
  2. As an adult, I have earned the right to determine my own schedule and am often able to let the current state of my brain dictate the type of work I'd be best suited for at the moment.  (Reference: 10:51 pm, blogging in the bathtub.)
  3. And mostly, because they're MY rules.  If they didn't work for me, I'd change them.
But this week I've been thinking about Alex.  And about my homeroom class, which is energetically populated by students whose ratio of ADHD brains to neurotypical brains is 1:3.  One of the biggest struggles for these kids is... you guessed it... paper.

If you're still reading this, I'm guessing you know and love an ADHD student.  And I bet you've heard these statements more times than I've lost a memo from my boss:

  • "I didn't do it because I can't find the paper."
  • "I did it, but I forgot to turn it in."
Sixth grade has been rough for Alex.  He is working as hard as he can (and so are Kirk and I) to implement strategies that will work for him.  We've figured out the accommodations that make it possible for him to accomplish the work.  And yet the kid still has six missing assignments at the end of first quarter.  I asked his SPED coordinator to do me a personal solid and stop in to check Alex's desk.  "Can you just maybe take a minute to help him get organized?" I asked.  Later that day, the coordinator showed me two stacks of paper, each two inches thick.  One was graded work that should have come home.  The other was various assignments, notes, worksheets, and organizers in various states of completion.  All of these papers had come from inside Alex's desk.  No WONDER he couldn't find the required steps of his completed writing cycle to turn in for a final grade.

As a teacher, this sort of thing is all sorts of frustrating for me.  I have solid, explicit procedures in my class which I break down into one step directions to try to help my students manage their papers. "Make sure this paper goes behind your grammar tab," I say to the class.  But if I don't watch with an eagle eye, there is always someone who raises a hand the next day.

"Ms. Fife, I can't find my grammar packet."  I sigh.  Breath deeply.  Admonish.  

"If you'd have followed the instruction to put it behind your grammar tab, then you would know exactly where it is," I say, with even tone as I help the student find it, crumpled and floating within the open expanse of desk.

  • ADHD adult brain says, "I can't be expected to put away papers where they go when I get them."
  • Mom says, "Why can't you turn in your papers?  I know you did them!!"
  • Teacher says, "I told you EXACTLY what to do with that paper.  How is it possibly lost?" 

And a little new info.  My significantly more dull second-favorite ADHD expert Dr. Barkley stresses the idea that strategies to manage ADHD can only be effective when practiced in the environment where the problem occurs.  In other words, nothing I teach Alex at home will have an impact on how he organizes his desk.

Huge sigh.

Followed by an epiphany.  

Clothes are also the enemy.  They beg to be sorted and folded and hung and... AAAH!! That is too many steps.  I bought new slacks for work, and I know I should hang them nicely to make them last.  But I can't.  Neurotypical brains see one step: hang up pants.  But ADHD brains see: open closet, find hanger, fold pants in that really nice way that works well on hangers, put pants through hanger, put hanger on rod, close closet.  So. Many. Steps.  So the responsible ADHD brain executes what it can: drape pants nicely over nearest edge.  Goal of preserving the pants is reached in the smallest amount of steps.  

But I don't want the room covered in pants.  So I found a solution.  I put an empty box in the closet.  I now drape my pants over the edges of the box.  Open closet, loosely fold pants, drape pants.  Close closet is optional.  Three steps I can do.  

When I say, "Put your grammar packet behind the grammar tab," 75% of my students have one task to do.  But 25% of them have to pull the binder out of the desk, put the binder on the desk, flip to the appropriate tab, open the binder rings, align the hole punches with the rings, close the rings, close the binder, and put the binder in the desk.  That is two more steps than it would take to hang up my pants.  Which I won't do.

And now the conundrum.  

My rules and strategies work for me.  Scroll back up for a reminder of the reasons why.  Mostly, it had to do with being an adult and being able to make my own choices.  

Reasons my sorts of rules don't work for students:
  1. They are students in a classroom with procedures for materials outlined by the teacher.  Specific papers have specific places, and teachers expect for them to always be in those places.
  2. They are students in a classroom with specific expectations placed on their schedule.  Whether 8:25 is a great time of day for their brains or not, that is when we put away the grammar packets.
  3. They are kids.  So they don't make the rules.
So here's my two-part challenge for teachers:
  1. Please don't change your expectations!  Our ADHD brains really do need a chance to develop coping strategies.  Someday our boss is going to want us to keep track of important reports, the airport is going to expect us to be able to present a passport to travel internationally, and... yeah, I already mentioned the DMV.  We absolutely have to figure it out.
  2. Please consider your methods.  How many steps are you asking an ADHD brain to take all at once?  Is there any way to build a PAUSE into the procedure?
Here's what I'm going to try out on 25% of my students next week.  I'm going to add a tray under their chairs.  (Our chairs have a little ledge there where one can rest.)  ALL papers will go in the tray.  The "AS LONG AS I CAN FIND THE TRAY, I CAN EVENTUALLY FIND THE PAPER" tray.  Then, at the end of the day when their focus isn't divided among other important goals, I will ask them to sort the tray.  Grammar papers will go behind the grammar tab.  Take home papers will go... well, home.  Recycle papers will get recycled.  

I'm going to stop expecting 10 year old ADHD brains to do something my 37 year old one can't do.  And then I'm going to teach them how to succeed anyway.

As for Alex, I'm glad I figured out what conversation to have with him.  "How can we reduce the number of steps that it takes to be able to find the papers you need."  He'll figure out his own rules.  Those are the best kinds of rules to follow, anyway.

(Just for fun: I also have a rule about how to handle the important papers that are put in my box at work.  I leave them there.  They are SO much safer there than if I touch them.  Want proof that my methods aren't needed by the masses?  Notice that all the other boxes are empty.)

Monday, August 20, 2018


"I will not stand, sit, or lay down."  The Player's Code flashed through my mind as red laser beams connected with my chest.  I looked up, a feat pretty easily accomplished from the unique vantage point of being sprawled out on the floor on my back. 

"Are you guys okay?" Adam questioned, pausing his trigger finger just long enough for me to mumble affirmatively, then continuing to alternate between shooting me and shooting David.  In this style of play aptly named "Frantic," our packs rebooted from a tag after only one second, and staring down at two stationary targets was the laser tag equivalent of hitting the jackpot.  Alex seemed less concerned with our well-being, putting his sniper skills to use to tag whichever vest lit up first.

I had been more than a little frustrated with David for slamming his laser gun into my forehead and bolting.  My forehead throbbing, I lay on the ground with my eyes closed carefully assessing vitals before standing up.  Determining everything was technically fine, despite the concentrated bump under my bangs, I rose to sitting and took in my surroundings. 

In a white button-up shirt, David's torso glowed under the blacklights.  From it stuck arms and legs at angles best represented by that chalk figure drawn on the sidewalk at a crime scene.  He wasn't moving.  Immediately, I regretted my selfishness as I'd waited for him to come to my rescue.  "Honey, are you okay?" I asked, then waited for a response that didn't come.  "Honey?" I asked again, and then a third time. 

He stirred.  "I hit my head," he started.  "I think I must have tripped, and then I hit my head really hard.  What happened to you?"

"You hit my head really hard, too," I laughed.  Neither of us had moved substantially from where we'd landed, and neither seemed particularly inclined to do so.  Shaking my head at the incredulous nature of our predicament, I asked, "Do you think I should call for the marshal?"  I recalled the training we'd been provided before each laser tag game this month, and knew I'd been prepared for this silly moment.  If I simply shouted, "Marshal, Marshal, Marshal," we'd be rescued.  Albeit, also humiliated.

Instead, we opted to pull our 30-something-year-old bodies off the laser tag arena floor and take on the young opponents who'd been so eager to take advantage of our situation.  David has a headache, and I have a sizable bruise forming, and we have a ridiculous story of the time we injured ourselves playing laser tag.

End of Summer

My custody agreement is a strange one, I'll admit.  Kids with me in the summer; kids with Kirk during the school year.  It was designed to minimize the impact to the kids' way of life, and having lived it for a full year now, I think we chose wisely.

That said, it is the last day of summer, and I'm packing up the kids to send them back to Dad's.  

We took advantage of an evening when Adam had plans to treat Alex and Dylan to their Sugarhouse favorite: Dough Co.  A nice long walk up to the cookie dough store, a warm evening on a sidewalk bench, and chatty walk back home helped me tie up a great summer with the two little kids who seem to have thoroughly enjoyed their summer.

It's been harder on Adam, though, to be away from his friends.  His neighborhood.  His dad.  I've spend a lot of the summer as chauffeur, driving him to the many places he'd rather (or just plain had to) be.  Lagoon.  Bryce's.  Work.  I haven't regretted a single mile, because the secret to getting to know Adam is simple.  Spend time with him and let him talk.  The cumulative hours in the car have made up for all the time he wasn't around.

Still, I wanted to do something special for him to end the summer, too.  His unrivaled love of Top Ramen inspired us to take him to try the real deal.  And when Jinya Ramen Bar opened a new location just around the corner, David and I wanted to show Adam a corner of Sugarhouse that he just might miss.

The evening plays out like an old film real in my mind.  He's in black joggers and a white t-shirt - a huge break from his standard BYU sweats and a dark grey t-shirt.  He's skateboarding in front of us, and somehow through the back of his ball cap, I can see his smile.  He's loud, and he's laughing, and he looks back at us to make sure he's the center of attention.  He is.

He looks so grown up sitting at the table next to me and across from David.  He's 5'9" now, so I have to look up to look him in the eye.  He doesn't stop talking the whole meal.  About the food.  About a possible trip someday to Japan.  About anything that pops into his mind, because that is Adam.

The waiter comes and offers him more noodles.  "Wait, that's a thing?" he says, wide eyed and not quite willing to accept his good fortune.  He decides that ramen really is the best food ever and starts chatting about next summer when Bryce stays over, he'll have him bring some money, and they'll walk over and get ramen and...

...he's skated too far ahead of us for me to hear his words anymore.  We keep a leisurely pace, walking hand-in-hand and discussing the man-child whose larger-than-life presence has filled our home all summer.  We reach the front porch and hear a Smash Mouth melody being plunked out one note at a time at the piano.  We pause on the porch, knowing that if he is aware of an audience, he will stop.  With no warning, the teenage tornado abandons the piano and continues its path to the basement.  

Being Responsible

I've been "on my own" now since November 2016, and I've learned a lot about being responsible.  Health insurance, car insurance, oil changes, car registration.  It's not that I couldn't do that stuff before.  It is just that I hadn't really ever done it.  And definitely not without another responsible human looking over my shoulder and making sure I got it done.

I'm more responsible now than ever.  I check my credit score frequently.  My bank account daily.  I am mindful of due dates, and when things don't go quite the way I planned, I handle it.  (See debit card fraud of June 2018 and the great Car Registration Adventure.)

As a responsible adult, it really bugs me when I get notification that I have a debt that has been sent to collections.  From 2015. 

I get that in a past life I may have been less responsible.  I get that in my present state, I still let things slip.  I get that I might need reminders, and I am totally willing to pay the late charges and whatnot associated with my occasional screw ups.  But I am not certain why it needs to escalate to collections before someone sends me a letter.

I asked the collections agency and was told that the hospital to whom I apparently owed $31.87 transferred that debt to a different agency who then sent the amount to their firm for collections.  It seems like it would have been a lot less work for them to just send me a letter and let me know I owed them money.

I would have paid it.

Friday, August 17, 2018


What started out as being budget conscious has morphed into environmentally friendly, and I now shop pretty much exclusively secondhand. Decades for formalwear. Uptown Cheapskate for inspiration, blouses, and dresses. Poshmark for slacks. DI and Savers for shoes and jackets. And boutique stores for the slightly pricier but killer pieces.

Back to school never cost so little!

Thursday, August 16, 2018


Definitely just called Lyft to bring Adam's baseball bag to the school. 

What is the opposite of #firstworldproblems?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Chapter 1

Summer is almost over, and with it closes the first chapter of a new book I guess I could call Boytrapped Volume II.  In my custody agreement with Kirk, I get the kids (and optionally the dog) for the whole summer.  Exercising the dog option has brought a little added chaos to the last three weeks of summer.  And the kids have kept us on our toes as we all adapt to our new lives together and in Sugarhouse.

Adam opted to spend the night at Kirk's, so we took the other two to their favorite place, Dough Co, and ended up piled on the bed watching YouTube videos David had referenced during the walk back.

I am hoping we'll find time for a last-of-summer hurrah with Adam at the new ramen place around the corner before my house becomes 3 boys and a dog quieter next week.

Meditation Whim

On a whim, I decided to try meditating in my car on the way home. I looked up a YouTube video specific for car meditation, and I really tried to give it an honest effort.

But when the voice coming from my stereo asked me to invite my "clearing angels" into my car and ask them to take away the energy that I got at work and no longer need, I gave up.

If I have "clearing angels," I am giving them the evening off.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Was it worth the time? Probably not.  But it makes me happy to see the books organized by color as a result of the library I loved so much at the hotel Arlo in New York.

Was it worth the sliver I now have lodged under my fingernail?

The jury, unlike the sliver, is out.

Hole in the Fence

It isn't fair how much we tease Adam. But my highly intelligent son has a frequent habit of letting his mouth move faster than his brain, and I just can't keep myself from laughing. Similar to the way I would have chronicled his first words when he was tiny, I wanted to record a few of our favorite Adamisms lately.

- Cheddar incense (it was really cedar)
- Exit salad (Dad chronicled that one on Facebook)
- This look he gets every time he doesn't quite understand that David is joking

But my favorite happens this last weekend when we were spending some time with Logan and Ehlana.  Adam struggles when words don't match tone, and will take the tone every time.  This has been a problem for him when dealing with adults all his life. Sweet primary teachers would smile at him and say, "I really need you to sit down." All he could hear with the kind tone was, "She really likes me! I should keep doing exactly what I'm doing."

Well, this means he is fairly likely to believe anything that is said by someone who sounds believable. Ehlana had him completely convinced that they had cut a hole in the fence just big enough for their dog to cross from the back yard to the front yard. All of Ehlena's body language indicated that she was kidding. The statement she was making sounded completely false. But her tone sounded serious!

And so when he was asked to open the gate for Alex, he responded, "Can't he just go through the hole?"

Girls Day Out

David asked if I would be interested in a girls day out.  A girls day out.

Of course I had all the questions. Which girls? Doing what? I have a core group of female friends, but I knew if they wanted to hang out with me the invitation would have come from Amy.

Whatever it was he had up his sleeve, he wanted to keep as a surprise. But I'm kind of a difficult person to surprise. It's possible I might be a diagnosable control freak. And it is all together entirely true that I am over scheduled all the time. Letting someone else put something on my calendar? That sounds like the definition of hell.

But I assured him that if he could promise me it was with people I liked doing something that I would rather do than spend time with him, I was up for the adventure. He tried to continue planning the surprise, But ultimately decided he needed my input in order to finalize the plans.

I stood in the hallway with a facial expression I am sure was a mix of complete disapproval and delight as I waited for him to spill the beans.  Really... what could he have planned that I would actually enjoy.  With girls?

"Would you like to go skydiving with Mena?"

That's his idea of girls day out?

No wonder I love this man.

Going Back

I am going back to blogging. Long before Facebook, I cleared my mental space by draining words straight into my blog. And while I did It for my own sake, others seemed to actually enjoy reading it. Perhaps that's when the problem started. Perhaps that's when I got an over-inflated sense that what I have to say matters.
Then came Facebook. And it's early days, it was a friendly place for sharing potty training stories and pictures of your dinner. It helped me feel less isolated when my children were little. But Facebook has changed, and so have I.
In order for me to confidently click post, I have to edit not only for spelling and grammar but for audience perception. Will a world of acquaintances catch my subtle tone? Have I tagged anyone would prefer not to be publicly acknowledged in my story? Have I gotten Adam's approval to share stories and pictures in a space he shares? My words have become carefully guarded. Spun for what I think will be accepted when received.
That does not help my brain declutter.
So I'm returning to blogging, and it's going to be more word vomity than ever.  Read it if you want. Judge it if you will. And get to know me if you stay.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Sometimes It Is About the Nail

I had a dream last night that I was working with a partner to put away a large stack of chairs in a corporate environment.  Together, we put these chairs away at lightning speed, but as I stepped back from the project I noticed that a piece of trim for a doorway we'd gone through had managed to attach itself to the skin of my left leg, running ankle to knee.  It was sort of just wedged in there, but one thin finishing nail was burrowing into my leg, making sure the over-sized splinter wanna be couldn't go anywhere.

The problem was obvious!  There was an obnoxious piece of lumber stuck loosely to me with a nail.  The solution was easy: remove the nail.  Except it wasn't easy.  I was new at the company, and I didn't know if there was a correct procedure for this.  I couldn't walk to HR on my own, so I sat in a wheeled chair and had a friend push me.  I arrived in the HR office, where I was wheeled directly between two women having a seemingly important conversation.  I waited silently as they continued, not at all noticing the nail in my leg or even that I was there at all.

I finally had to interrupt.  "Excuse me?" I started timidly, "I got injured moving the chairs, and I don't know if we have a sick bay or anyone who is supposed to handle this sort of thing?"

The HR woman looked annoyed that I was wasting her time.  Wordlessly, she reached toward the wood, took a firm hold, and yanked.  My problem was solved, but I felt both stupid and in pain.  I could have easily done that myself.  It would have hurt a lot less.  Did she understand that I was perfectly competent enough to pull that out?  Did she know how much effort I had gone to in order to not do something that might have been someone else's job?  

When I was younger, my mom noticed that I liked to work my problems out in my sleep.  If she walked by my room and heard me sleep-talking, she knew I was facing something in life that I didn't even yet know was bothering me.  My conscious self wasn't ready to admit the problem, but my subconscious was already digging in.

I am pretty sure I don't sleep talk anymore, but I do still tend to identify the root of my conscious problems while deeply slumbering.  Sometimes it takes a minute to piece together.  Sometimes it is obvious.

This one was obvious.

This summer I am learning to delegate.  Actively practicing it.  And it is a beautiful thing!  But clearly my subconscious has not gotten the memo and is trying to remind me how much I prefer to just pull every nail out myself.

Sometimes it is about the nail.
And sometimes pulling it out isn't as simple as it seems.

Thursday, May 17, 2018


I am working on a thing: learning how to give a "Cliff Notes" style answer when pages upon pages are piling up in my brain and spilling out onto the unsuspecting questioner, overwhelming them entirely before I've even taken a moment to breathe.

To be honest, I am no good at it.

Which is why I am very excited about a new thing I just learned.


It apparently means "too long, didn't read," and it can be used by those who know they write way more than most normal humans are willing to wade through to summarize their own verbosity without having to choose to just say less words in the first place.

I think I am in love.

But that's not even my point.  The point I am excited to unapologetically state in too many words is that my brother is awesome.  And it is really fun to be able to trace back the little things that led to him doing something awesome.

The awesome thing he did is this.  And he has done an excellent job of explaining the product in a business-y way on his website.  I have to admit that my favorite part is when he puts on his engineering cap and says a bunch of stuff I didn't read.  It fills me with all sorts of sisterly pride that he has grown up to know stuff that bores me.

But there's a bit of backstory that he didn't share.  Because it doesn't really matter.  But when I read the things he wrote, my mind jumped instantly into word-vomit mode, and here I am.

#1 - The Coolest Uncle Ever

The promo picture on the website is my kid.  Having Uncle Jack as an uncle has got to be just about the coolest thing in the world.  This is the second time they've gotten to be product testers, and Uncle Jack makes pretty cool things.  I loved loosely supervising when they tested the directions for a wooden model he makes and sells.  In fact, I love loosely supervising anytime they are with him.  Slightly more safety conscious that Grandpa Casdorph sometimes appears, Jack is the perfect blend of adventure and caution, and I know that the things my kids learn when they are with him are unique and invaluable.

#2 - Kinda My Idea

Okay, it really wasn't my idea at all.  But I did go to Cub Country last year, and I did watch Alex and his friends have a great time shooting water bottle rockets, and I did mention that to my dad and Jack hoping they'd engineer something, and I did get to participate in a sunny day of family fun that probably spurred Jack's desire to do it better.

And I do have the video evidence of the fun.

#3 - Shameless Plug

I was going to say all the reasons I think you should buy from Jack.  But really, I think his stuff speaks for itself.  If you haven't visited his website or his Amazon store, you really should.  If you like gifting unique things or supporting local businesses, you'll probably really enjoy buying from him.  Oh, and purchasing from Jack supports Adam, too, since Adam is able to have the coolest job ever offered to a 13 year old.  (Did I mention that Adam's Inspirations entry, which he made using the skills he's learned at Art of Steel, won 2nd in state?)

Jack is awesome.  Buy this:

Friday, March 23, 2018

Sound's Good

I was listening to NPR the other morning (…wait… Andrea… NPR… I know.  That’s a whole ‘nother tangent, and I’m not ready to get distracted just yet…) and I learned something brand new to me.  The Library of Congress preserves sound.  Intentionally.  There is a committee that chooses which sounds have earned the honor of being on the registry and intentionally preserved for future generations.  The concept here is far more interesting to me than the actual list of sounds they’ve chosen this year, but if you want to climb down that rabbit hole, begin here.

What makes a sound important?  The question has been ruminating in my brain for about 72 hours, probably making it more likely that I would click a link to a video posted by a Facebook friend.  I can't seem to find an embedable version of the full video, but here is a small clip:

The full video featured the stories of two individuals who had chosen the sound clips to help remember their deceased parents and to keep their voices with them at all times.

There is something about this idea that just resonates with me.  (Pun intended for sure, but not at all for comedic impact.)  As someone who has a difficult time wearing a t-shirt with words on it or choosing art that I like enough to display it on my wall, visual imagery just isn't my thing.  Sound, however, has an ability to cut right through me.  If I am every going to well up with emotion, it will be the result of the incomparable feelings generated through a beautiful sound.

The other thing that I love here is the subtlety.  A moment is captured and permanently displayed, but not just anyone has access to the full meaning.  And when someone asks, that all important sound gets to bounce around again if even for only a moment.

And that leads me to wonder:

If I had to choose one sound to carry around with me forever, what would it be?

Would I choose a clip from Twas the Night Before Christmas, a sound recording my Grandma Casdorph made for me a few Christmases before she died.  Maybe even just the first word she recorded, "Andrea."  Even now, I can hear her voice in my mind.  Would I carry that around to share with those bold enough to ask?

Maybe the moment in my family's recording of "Prayer of the Children" when my sisters and I start a unison line with a crisp, explosive "c" then carefully control our vibratos and vowels to match each other as perfectly as possible.

The distinctive sounds of each boy's laughter?  Dylan's giggle; Adam's chortle, Alex's maniacal mischief? 

What would I want to hear?  What would I want to share?

It takes 17 board members to make the decisions for the Library of Congress.  Perhaps I just don't have enough resources!