Those of you who have been following me for a while now, know that one of my biggest ADD challenges has to do with, well…anything that pertains to the kitchen.

Just figuring out what to cook each night has been a chronic problem for me- one that dates back to when my children were little, when there was rarely a time that both liked what I put on the table.  That meant one or the other ate cereal every night. Or whatever their little hands could put together, since I refused to cook separate meals. To top it off, my husband hated pasta, which was one of two things both of my kids would happily eat. Wait, one had to have butter sauce and the other had to have tomato sauce (no meat). But hey, it was close!

One of the things I’ve dreaded the most in more recent years is holiday dinners. My mother was a gourmet cooking teacher and that always got me off the hook, as we’d have dinners at her home. But as she’s gotten older, she no longer can manage the cooking. So the task has been handed over to me, her only daughter.

In my own journey in understanding ADD and how to best work with it instead of against it, I’ve gotten to the point of accepting that it’s way too much stress to cook an entire holiday dinner (except for Chanukah, as my kids insist on the 3 staples I make each year that luckily, come out ok, if I say so myself).

But…Thanksgiving? Umm…no way. So…I order carry out Thanksgiving food and bring it to my elderly parents. You’d think that would be an easy task, right?

Not if your ADD is like mine. Which means, my executive functioning disappears as soon as I walk into a kitchen.

Carryout means heating up food. Simple enough, one would think.  But it still involves timing, organizing, planning, and all the rest. The 10 bags of food I brought into my mother’s kitchen contained two pages of instructions. Bonus! Now, that is a good deal, considering how much I spent on the food!

But still, it threw me off. Each pan required different cooking times. Some said to take the lid off. Some needed different oven temperatures. And since I don’t know my way around my mother’s kitchen as well as I should (SHOULD? That should never been in our ADD vocabulary), I unpacked the items and did what I normally do when cooking is involved.

I froze. I stared at the aluminum pans. I opened each one cautiously, peeking in carefully as if a viper might strike out at me.

If you don’t have ADD, you don’t know how embarrassing it can be for a grown woman to have no clue as to how to heat up an entire READY MADE dinner (let alone cook one). Of course, there are exceptions- many women with ADD are exceptional cooks. But not me.

Luckily, my daughters were there to help. My oldest looked at me, squinting, waiting to see if she’d be called on to bail me out. The youngest, my ADD girl, grabbed her sliced ham and microwaved it, oblivious to the rest of the options she’d have before her. She must have known it would be a good two hours before I’d figure things out. Self-preservation is the name of her game.

My parents’ caregiver came up with an incredible solution. She took out her smart phone, read the directions for each pan, then set up a schedule, along with timers and beepers. She became my executive functioning as she barked out orders to me:

“Ok- put the sliced turkey in the 350 oven but keep the lid on. Throw the mashed potatoes in there, too- the lid comes off in 15 minutes and I’ll tell you when the time comes. You can squeeze in that small container of asparagus, but that only needs 15 minutes total, so I’ll tell you when to put that in.”

…and so on.

What was this? A game of Tetris?

With her help, her guidance and my older daughter’s helping hands and suggestions (“mom- don’t forget to put on the oven mitts!”), we made it through another Thanksgiving dinner.

How does your ADD impact holiday meals? Share your thoughts in the Comment section below.