Nov 24

If Mama Ain’t Happy…

This is a re-post of a speech I gave to welcome everyone to the 1st Happy Mama Conference and Retreat, first held summer of 2012 in Conover, NC. It’s a great retreat and is still going on!

I’m reposting the speech for a couple of reasons. One, because even though several years have passed, none of the challenges I and so many of my fellow mamas of children with NB special needs have changed, and two, maybe more importantly, the core message of this speech is still CRUCIAL for us to remember: you are not alone.


I’m Adrienne Ehlert Bashista. Some of you might know me from our group blog and book: Easy to Love but Hard to Raise, or through the Facebook page connected to it, or through A Mom’s View of ADHD blog or Facebook page, or some of you might not know me at all.

I have a 10 year old son who has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD. I’m not going to talk that much about FASD except to say that it’s a brain-based disorder that manifests itself behaviorally. It’s a physical disability because it is based in his body, but it’s in the part of the body we don’t see, the brain, but the part of the body that has the greatest impact on his behavior, his learning, his ability to get along in the world, and his relationship with his family and anyone else he meets.

Our path to getting our son the correct diagnosis was a loooooong one. His first diagnosis was ADHD, followed by ODD, mood disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, pediatric bipolar, then we found out he has borderline intelligence and finally, after 4 psychiatrists, 3 therapists, 2 family practice doctors, 3 OTs. 1 speech therapist we found the diagnosis that made sense.

For everyone in this room who’s had to struggle to find a diagnosis, whose had to trust her gut more than the experts, who’s taken their kid to very well-meaning, kind, but ultimately ineffective people, who’ve largely blamed yourself for your child’s behavior problems (because in the end, who else do you blame)? I need to tell you this: Continue reading

Sep 16

When The Other Generation Is Easy To Love But Hard To Raise

old-63622_150I love my dad – more than I can describe. He’s always been there for me, always the first to offer a hand when life threw me a curve ball. What he lacks in outward emotions he makes up for with ready offers of support and a safety net of stability. But my dad is growing old – very old. He is stone cold deaf without his hearing aids, his eyesight is failing, his knees are shot, his 89 year old body is tired. His diuretic makes him reluctant to travel too far from a restroom or take too long a car ride. So by this past spring, his trips beyond the house consisted mainly of doctors’ visits and a weekly card game at the senior center. My mom, his wife of 63 years, died three years ago. Dad misses her constantly. You can see it in his eyes. A religious man, he wakes up each morning just a little disappointed that his prayers weren’t answered and they weren’t reunited during the night.

After my mom died, my dad moved in with my sister. Because I live 600 miles away, I started calling him once a week when I knew my sister was out – I figured he could use the company more on that night and he could also talk louder without bothering anyone. He did most of the talking – generally idle chatter with the occasional talk about memories, the afterlife and once in a blue moon, his feelings. But when I called a few months ago, I sensed that something was different. Something in his tone wasn’t right. He told me that he was moving out of my sister’s house and into an assisted living facility. My sister had told him she could no longer care for him.

Continue reading

Feb 26

Guest post: Losing a Hero

old_mans_handsGrief is a great, big monster that jumps out from under the bed and scares the living crap out of you. You don’t see it hiding under there, even if his large, hairy, zombie toe was sticking out just a little. Even if a ghoul straight out of the Thriller movie was in your closet when you opened it up before bed. You ignored it. You’re just not ready, and I am talking about how we adults process and handle grief.

Imagine someone taking your 8 year-old, ADHD world by a string and giving a violent shake and bouncing down the stairs. That’s what happened to our son when my father, his beloved Papa, was diagnosed with stage four glyoblastoma brain cancer and died (what seemed like seconds) 5 weeks later, in November 2011. Continue reading

Feb 20

Guest post: Been there, done that, where’s the t-shirt?


I fly at least once a month for my job and each time I arrive at the airport, I am met with the announcement of what color Homeland Security has assigned to our potential travel threats. The color red equals a severe threat of attack, while blue offers a “guarded” risk.

Everywhere we drive, colors represent something similar, as well. From the first time we start to drive, we recognize that the color red, whether on a stop sign or light, dictates that we should stop, while yellow guides us to slow down or proceed with caution.

At least once a month, I see someone post something on Facebook about being “dumb enough to wear a red shirt in Target” and after seeing some version of that sentiment for about the tenth time, I started thinking.

What if I was able to wear a brightly colored shirt that enabled me to alert those around me that I was in the company of a small child with ADHD? What if I had the luxury of presenting myself with a universally-recognized color garment that told people to “proceed with caution” both in how they regarded my child and how they addressed me? Continue reading

Feb 01

Guest blog: Dating & Raising an “Easy to Love” Child

Today’s guest blogger is a 35-year-old mom with a 5 year old kiddo with ADHD and ODD. Her child has been on medication since August.

Note: ETL stands for “easy to love,” which is short for the title of the book: Easy to Love but Hard to Raise.

holding hands

If you asked me to define myself a few years ago, I would use the following words, “failure, divorced, single mother & thirty-one”. At the end of 2009, I asked my ex-husband of seven years, to move out of our home and filed for divorce. He unfortunately got himself heavily into drugs months before his eviction and as a result, he was a danger to me and my child, “M” who was 2 at the time.

M was always a “spirited” child from birth. As 2010 arrived, M was showing more signs of ADHD and M’s behavior was not for the faint of heart.  M’s acting out, biting, hitting and uncontrollable anger was exhausting and difficult. As M’s behavior worsened, I felt alone. It was hard for other family members and friends to understand M’s actions and often times; I was looked at as “the problem”.  I was emotionally drained. With working full time and dealing with single motherhood and my ETL, I wondered two questions. (1) if I would ever be able to get myself out there and (2) who would want to be a part of my madness?  For those that are single mothers and raising ETL kiddos, there is hope.

I decided to take a tiny leap and took the dating world on slowly. I tried EHarmony and went on a series of many bad dates.  Either the chemistry was not correct, date did not take hygiene seriously or moved too fast (wanting to meet kids after first date). I actually had one person that wanted to do a “family” date after two dates. That may work for other women, but not me.  Not only were the dates bad, but what single working mom really has the time to date, especially a mom of an ETL kiddo?  I came to a fast realization that (1) I barely even have time to shave my legs in the shower without M knocking down the door (2) makeup and trying to look cute are overrated (3) Babysitters are few and far between (4) uninterrupted sleep may outweigh a date (5) having thirty minutes to myself definitely outranks a date.

I admit, I had a negative outlook on the whole dating thing and it was not until I crossed paths with someone special that I realized dating might be okay.  I ran into someone I knew a long time ago and for me, there was instant chemistry.   Even though there was chemistry, our paths would not cross again for five months and when they did, I knew that this person, “B” was special.  We took things very slow and did not involve M for many months.

Once M was involved, things got interesting at times. There were times that M had massive tantrums and many therapeutic holds ensued in front of B, who never judged me. Throughout 2010 and 2012, M’s behavior was a see-saw of ups and downs and when there were downs, it was not fun.  It took a few years and a therapist to get M evaluated and on medication.  Even with M’s medication, M had shares of tantrums and moods. There are two evenings in particular that stand out.  One evening, M was in a mood and I had to give M the emergency meds for the first time. M was angry and having a massive tantrum that involved hitting and biting and a therapeutic hold.  Once the meds started working, M calmed down but it was about 30 minutes of “fun”.  While this was going on, B did not judge me, intervene and most importantly, did not leave.  When all was calm, B was outside and I stepped outside to tell him it was safe to come back in and B gave me a hug. I was in emotionally drained and in tears and B told me I was a good mom.

Another time, B came over for dinner. While I was trying to finish dinner and set the table, M started to get in a funky mood.  It escalated at dinner and I had to remove M from the table and put M in time out. I had to hold M’s door shut and M had a big one. M destroyed the room, screamed bloody murder and was throwing objects at the door.  B asked me if I needed help and I told him I have it handled and to enjoy his dinner.  Even though I did not find it funny at the time, I find it comical now, as this is my life at times with M.

Even though it took some time, I was able to find someone that does not judge me or M. B is good to M and provides a positive male role model for M, which I am grateful for.

Raising ETL kiddos is hard, draining and emotionally exhausting but there is hope! Through my story, I want to leave you with the following: 1) Single ETL mommies can date and have a successful relationship 2) your ETL kiddo will be able to handle someone new in their life 3) take things slow and take your time introducing kiddos in the mix 4) try to take time for yourself whether it is gym time, nap or relaxing 4) Humor can make the worst day a better one 5) Things may not be perfect but you can be happy.

Nov 30

On Being Judged

Throughout the year, there are obligatory events that make parents of an “easy to love but hard to raise” child cringe – birthday parties, vacations, trips to see relatives, the start of the school year and the double-whammy of Thanksgiving and the gift-frenzies of December. These are the events we dread because they come with a generous helping of judgment. Every year, you see magazine articles and blogs helpfully entitled “How to Start the School Year Off Right” or “How to Survive the Holidays with Family.”  You roll your eyes, knowing there’s no hope for you and your offspring. But you read them anyway. Maybe you’ll glean a smidgeon of insight or at least be reminded that you’re not alone in your dread of gatherings.

The general theme of these essays is that 1. Your child is bound to draw unwelcomed judgment upon him/herself and (guilt by association) you and 2. You can do damage control. I now totally disagree – at least on Point #2.

Recently, my extended family gathered to mark an event (pick any event – they all have the same story). Inevitably, someone made a casual comment about a relative who wasn’t there. That was followed up with a story about the last family event this relative attended where words/actions bypassed someone’s brain filter and led to hurt feelings. Before long, the whole extended family was on Freud’s couch, being analyzed, poked, prodded – and judged. Not all judgments were harsh. There were some nods to noble qualities and thanks for support given in a needy moment. But unkind sentiments weren’t exactly on the endangered list. My overall reaction was to clam up, to move away from a conversation that could become toxic. I’d like to imply this was because I’m above all that, that I don’t have a catty bone in my body. But you’d probably know better.

Continue reading

Nov 21

Holiday fun! Relatives who don’t get your ETL child…

I posted this almost a year ago today and it’s still pretty relevant. Thanksgiving and the holidays are really stressful for kids like ours, and unforgiving family doesn’t help matters at all. I’m hoping this year’s holiday will be okay, but I have a contingency plan if anything goes wrong – pay attention to my child and leave as soon as things go awry.
Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go: I have a really great family. My parents, my in-laws, my sisters, their husbands and my nieces – all have been really understanding and forgiving when it comes to dealing with Little J.
Yes, there have been moments, like when my (very tired) mother-in-law was seated next to LittleJ for a 4-hour car ride and he talked non-stop from the maple syrup capital in northern Vermont all the way to their home in western Massachusetts , forcing her to eventually put her hands over her ears to try to drown him out, or the time he called my mom a Big Butt and my step-dad picked him up and turned him upside down to “teach” him not to do that, or the very first time he met his same-age, heretofore peaceful female cousin and within 5 minutes had goaded her into punching him in the head…oh, the list is really endless. But all in all, our immediate family has been very understanding and kind and generous in helping with Little J. Many times much more than I’ve managed to do so, frankly. And I really appreciate it. Continue reading
Oct 30

Guest blog: Life in Shadowland (or, Things I Wish People Understood about Having a Child with a Neurodevelopmental Disorder)

This is a repost of a guest post by Kelly Schmidt, written back in July. I’m reposting it because it seemed to resonate with a lot of people. Kelly is mom to Nathaniel, and Ph.D. candidate in a developmental psychology program. For Kelly’s full bio, see the  bottom of her post.

 When Kevin and I were married 10 years ago, we understood that there were no assurances that we would have a child because I have an endocrine disorder that causes fertility problems.  Nobody was more surprised or excited than us when we learned 2 months after our wedding that we were expecting.  I chose the name “Nathaniel” very deliberately because it means “Gift from God”.

Nathaniel has a BIG personality.  His smile is high wattage, his giggle is contagious.  He is scary-smart and has an amazing memory.  Sometimes he is so thoughtful and concerned about others, he takes my breath away.  He has a very strong faith and knows more about the Bible than many adults.  He loves sports (especially basketball), Legos, video games (much to my dismay), and reading (which makes me proud), and his brother Joel.  He likes to draw cartoons, help make pancakes and cookies, and talks about Pokemon and Mario Bros. endlessly.  He is 110% boy.

Nathaniel also has behavioral and psychiatric disorders.  The behavior disorder is called Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD.  The psychiatrist calls his psychiatric disorder a “Neurodevelopmental Disorder” but since insurance companies don’t reimburse for treatment of that, she calls it “Mood Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)” for billing purposes.  He has some features of bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety disorder, and even Aspergers syndrome.  He doesn’t meet clinical criteria for any of those disorders, however, because he is typically not symptomatic anywhere else but at home.

Home is where the explosions occur.  Home is where there is defiance, anger, and violence.  Home is where frustration boils over to punches, requests lead to rebellion, and yelling and tears are almost daily occurrences for all members of the family.  Peace is fleeting.  Quiet, dreadful anticipation of the next meltdown or outburst is the norm. Continue reading

Sep 07

Stay at Home Mother: First Day on My New Job

On the upside, I sit in my favorite coffee shop at 10:30 in the morning on a weekday writing for the first time in months. When I bought my coffee a few minutes ago, I put 25 dollars on a gift card (a gift to myself) suggesting that I expect to be able to do this on a semi-regular basis. I wear flip-flops, black yoga pants and a dark green t-shirt. Sun glasses propped on top of my head, I suppose I am wearing the uniform of a stay at home mother and I must say, it is comfy. Just how I like it.

On the downside, I have been weepy all morning. You see, this is the first official day of my new job. For the next two years I have walked away from paid employment. I am someone who hopes not to lose my mind, someone who hopes to improve on the balance in our family of five which includes a dad who works long, long hours, me, two teenagers in high school, and one preteen with ADHD in middle school. I hope for basics like cooking more nutritious meals (or cooking at all), being a mother who can breath, more support for completing homework, a presence when a random teen decides to open up, flossing my teeth, some yoga, as well as developing my writing. If you are snickering at my unrealistic expectations, I understand.

Last Fall I wrote for this blog about my ambivalence about working and mothering three intense kids, one who I comfortably think of as high need. At that time, I decided to stick it out with my job as a psychologist who, for the past decade plus, has worked with kids and teens at a local medical center. Even after my decision to stay at work, however, I continued to be preoccupied and torn in two different, demanding directions. Then one day in June, with my husband’s full and loving support, I sat at my desk at work and thought if I don’t just do it, I will remain stuck and nothing will ever change. I decided not to stay in my job based on fear, but to make a change despite the fear. So, right then and there, I wrote a letter of resignation and sent it off to my manager. When we met later that day, I told my manager that I could stay until September in order to facilitate a smooth transition for my patients and the department.

The relief of this decision lasted about one day. Maybe two. This was then replaced by a constant state of feeling terrified. Continue reading