Wednesday, February 27, 2013


    Warning: This is heavy stuff, folks.  As Lemony Snicket advised, if you want to read a post about a happy little elf, it's not too late to close the screen.  I am writing this because I feel that, as a writer, it is my duty to write about pieces of the human experience which are ugly and misunderstood.  Life is beautiful, but it is also hard.  First and foremost, however, I am writing this in the hopes that it may help even one person who reads it to feel hope, to realize they are not alone.  It was because of a woman on television sharing her experience with postpartum depression that I was able to find a light at the end of what I had thought was an endless tunnel.  I guess you could consider this post "paying it forward."  So, at the risk of becoming a complete cliche (who ever heard of a depressed writer), I will proceed in relating my journey with depression; postpartum depression in particular.  Please be advised that none of this is clinical or scientific.  It is simply my own personal impressions gained through my battles with depression.

     I have found that depression comes in waves.  The only way I can think to describe it to someone who has never dealt with it is this:  Imagine you are sailing along on a peaceful, calm sea.  The sun is beaming, the water glistening.  You are content with the world and with your place in it.  Completely without warning, a rogue wave envelops you and you can't tell up from down.  The sun is still shining.  The water is still glistening.  But you are trapped under a giant, 100 foot wave.  Having dealt with my fair share of waves, I can now occasionally see one coming.  Sometimes, if I catch it just before it crests, I can ride it out.  But sometimes I am still blindsided.  If depression comes in waves, then the year after my daughter was born was a tsunami.  Like most young, expectant first time mothers, I was giddy with anticipation in the months before Morgan was born.  I thought, shopped and dreamed in pink.  I couldn't wait to meet the tiny person who had been nudging me and rattling my belly with hiccups for so long.  I dreamed of walks and picnics and patty-cake and lullabies.  My dream of motherhood was about to be fulfilled.    True to form for my perfectionist daughter, Morgan was born on her due date of August 28th, 2004.  The labor was complicated.  I narrowly avoided a c-section.    After twelve excruciating hours, hurricane Morgan came into the world.  She was completely blue.  After a few minutes, the doctors had her breathing.  I loved her the instant she was placed in my arms.  That instant love between mother and child would later become my saving grace, though I did not yet realize it as I lay in a state of exhausted confusion cradling the one I had dreamed of meeting for so long.  The next few weeks were filled with the bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived, terrifying yet blissful stupor which always accompanies new parenthood.  They were also filled with a lot of crying.  By a lot, I mean probably twelve hours out of twenty four.  We tried every remedy known to Western and Eastern medicine to calm Morgan's "colic."  She still screamed, and usually projectile vomited the most recent remedy.  Dirk was working and going to school.  I sat in our tiny, two bedroom apartment and listened to Morgan scream.  I paced halls, danced, rocked, nursed, sang, cried, prayed.  I didn't have many friends around and my parents both worked during the day.  I rarely left the confines of the apartment.  Looking back now, this should have been a red flag.  Looking back from the end of the tunnel, I can now see that the fact that I was literally afraid to leave the confines of my apartment with my new baby should have been a giant, glaring red flag.  But I had no idea.  When I would go out, I would notice other mothers with new babies.  They sat chattering happily as their newborn slept contentedly in his or her carrier.  I watched them with something between envy and desperation as I wondered how their lives could still seem so normal when mine had been turned inside out and upside down.  I went home and repeated the same daily cycle of pacing, rocking, nursing, singing, crying, praying.  There were a lot of tears.  I felt, desperate, lonely, hopeless, terrified, and tremendously guilty all at the same time. There were also many days when I felt too despondent to even cry.  I was becoming numb to the outside world.  I would stare out the window at the sun shining with some vague recognition that there was a world outside my window that I used to be a part of.  Christmas has always been my favorite day of the entire year.  Christmas Day, 2004 was one of the darkest days of my life. We had spent the day at my grandma's house.  The sun had gone down and the excitement of the previous day was dying down with it.  It had been a wonderful day, full of distractions, away from the confines of my cage.  It helped to be around people, to hear sounds of laughter.  I had almost felt normal again; almost like myself again.  At about 5:00, Morgan started in on one of her regular evening "colic" jags.  It became apparent soon enough that no one else wanted to hear it.  Dirk had gone to my parents' house with my dad to watch a movie.  The rest of my family was engaged in a card game.  Morgan was engaged in a mighty display of the power of her lung capacity.  After a few irritated stares in our direction, I got the message. I loaded Morgan into her car seat.  I began driving in the direction of our apartment, but I couldn't bring myself to go back to my empty apartment with a screaming baby on Christmas Day.  The motion of the car had temporarily calmed Morgan, so I decided to keep on driving.  I drove the empty streets, looking at all of the lighted windows I passed.  Everyone was together, celebrating happily in warm, lighted houses.  I was driving the dark empty streets because I didn't know where to go.  I had never felt so lost; I had never felt so alone.  All of the conflicting emotions I had been wrestling with for months came to a head.  I passed rows of telephone poles on the silent country road.  I wondered at what speed I would have to drive into one to end my life.  My foot pushed down harder on the gas pedal.  Then Morgan began to cry.  The very sound which had driven me stark raving mad for the past few months, literally saved my life.  I realized I had to stay alive, if only for her sake.  I drove home, put Morgan in her crib and let the wave wash over me.

     That was my lowest point.  I never again considered taking my own life, but I was living a sort of half life, trapped inside my own personal Hell, with absolutely no idea how to get out.  It was the hardest year of my life, and no one had a clue. That's the thing about depression; it is often invisible to the outside world.  We put on a happy face; we try to act "normal" because heaven forbid someone unearthed our deep dark secret and realized that we were crazy, or of unsound mind.  And then there was the guilt; oh there was guilt.  This should  have been the happiest, most blissful time of my life, at least according to all the Pampers and Huggies commercials, and instead, I was a psychotic wreck, barely hanging onto my sanity by a thread, and literally within an inch of my life.  What was wrong with me?!!  My answer came courtesy of Mrs. Brooke Shields.  One day, after Morgan was a little over a year old, I tuned in to Oprah, as I did most afternoons.  Brooke Shields was talking about a book she had written which detailed her battle with postpartum depression.  As she began to relate details of her struggle, I audibly gasped.  It felt like I was exhaling for the first time in over a year.  Suddenly, I could see a light.  I could see the past year flash before my eyes as an almost out of body experience.  The insurmountable wave that had been beating me down was postpartum depression.

     When I was eight months pregnant with Hyrum, I began taking antidepressants.  I stayed on them for a full year after he was born. Aside from the fact that the medication made me feel a little like a robotic Stepford wife, my experience with Hyrum's first year of life was much smoother, with only a few small waves lapping at my heels here and there.  When I went off the medication, I had panic attacks for weeks.  After the panic attacks wound down, I finally felt like myself again, for the first time in four years.  Then came the tidal wave of dealing with postpartum depression after a miscarriage.  I didn't even have a new baby to offset it this time.  When I found out I was expecting Ryan, I decided upfront that I wanted to attempt to tackle the pregnancy and first year without medication.  The medication after Hyrum had helped keep me on an even keel, but as I mentioned, it was a little too even.  I went through daily motions with no psychotic impulses, but I also lost my passion for writing, music, for just about everything.  I wasn't me.  With this baby, I wanted to be me, and I wanted to be happy about it.  A few days after Ryan was born,  I felt that all too familiar, suffocating feeling.  The wave had come.  Only this time, I knew I would breathe the fresh air and soak in the sunlight again.  I had emerged from an emotional and mental tsunami stronger before, and I knew I could do it again.  With the support of family and friends, and especially my rock, Dirk, as well as the God I pray to, I made it through the first year of Ryan's life with only a little Perkeset (don't worry- it was for the c-section) and Ibuprofen.

     I now understand that depression is real, terribly, awfully real. It is not my choice.  It is not my fault and it is nothing to be ashamed of.  It is not something that can be driven away if our attitude is good enough or if we lose ourselves in serving others.  These things can be good distractions, but they won't cure the disease of depression any more than they would cure the Swine Flu.  I am tired of depression being whispered about behind closed doors.  It is not a mysterious, taboo mental instability.  It is a chemical imbalance.  It is not a choice.  I did not wake up one morning and think, "I do believe I will try feeling hopeless and despondent today and see how it works out."  I now thankfully realize that there is help, and that I don't have to be at the mercy of the waves.  Every time I have emerged from a wave of depression, the air has seemed so much fresher, the sun so much brighter.  If anyone reading this has ever felt any of the feelings I have described, please talk to someone about it.  It's nothing to be ashamed of.  You are not crazy.  You are not alone.  And I promise you when you emerge from this wave, the world will seem bright again.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What's in the Middle?

    In Oreos, it's the cream; in books, it's the story; in annoying keep away games, it's the monkey.  It's the part of your name that you don't want to tell anyone because "Erastus" was your great great grandfather's name that somehow got stuck in the middle of your otherwise perfectly lovely name.  In the average lifespan, it is the time of the dreaded mid-life crisis.  In sports, it's half-time; in plays, intermission.  In the family I grew up in, it's me.  In my children, it's Hyrum.  I had always planned to have four children mainly because I never wanted to have a middle child.  Then, along came Ryan.  After nearly two years, and maybe ten nights of unbroken sleep, as well as several tantrums that have caused people to ask me if my child has epilepsy, Dirk and I have decided our family is chaotically complete.  And this means Hyrum will get the distinct privilege (ahem) of being the middle child.  Sometimes people with more than three children try to tell me that they have a middle child.  A true middle child is a person with one older sibling and one younger sibling.  I am a true middle child, which is exactly why I never wanted to put any of my children in the same position.  I will expound. I had a wonderful childhood and the best parents anyone could ask for.  I can only imagine what being a middle child with crappy parents would be like.  My parents always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and interests and they were always there to support me in these sometimes crazy ventures.  It is because of them that my Middle Child Syndrome is as mild as it is. But it is still there.  It is a natural byproduct of being a middle child.
     When an author starts out to write a book, it is usually because they have a story to tell, not because they have a fabulous beginning and ending sentence.  The Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After are integral parts, but the epic journey in the middle is why they write.  Families tend to be more about beginnings and endings.  When parents have their first baby, it is usually because they really want a baby.  Everything is new and exciting.  Every smile is photographed, every gurgle and coo is met with complete awe.  Every runny nose means a trip to the doctor.  Grandparents are called when the baby finally accomplishes the bowel movement they've been working on for five days.  When parents who desire a larger family have a second child, it is a natural continuation.  By the time number two rolls around, nothing is quite as impressive.  They've seen it all before.  Photographs are taken on holidays when the camera is remembered.  Gurgles and coos are nothing compared to the wise and wondrous musings of the genius older sibling.  Runny noses are wiped on sleeves and poops are further motivation to get the kid potty trained like their older sibling.  Then, along comes baby.  If the parents have set a three child limit, this is it.  Number three is the baby.  Every gurgle and coo is once again cherished because it is the last they will hear from any of their own children.  Not a moment or milestone is missed or undocumented.  Meanwhile, the oldest sibling is accomplishing new milestones on the other end.  The middle child can usually be found locked in his or her room pouring over Bernstein Bear books and thinking how nice it would be in a family of four (at least that's what I did).  When something goes awry in the home, it is most often pinned on the middle child.  The oldest child is far too responsible to have done such a thing, and the youngest could not have possibly figured out how to fit a hamster into the vcr.  The middle child is just young enough to have been that mischievous, and just old enough to have executed said mischief.  Once my brother actually tried to blame me for wetting his pants.  Thankfully my parents didn't buy that one, nor did they believe it when he later tried to blame it on our cat, Sam.  When my sister reached that special milestone of womanhood (which we are all excited about for exactly one day), she was taken out for a special mother daughter dinner and shopping trip.  When I reached that supposedly awesome but actually terrible stage of development, I was directed to the bathroom and told that Lindsey probably had some extra supplies I could use.  It was old news by then.  If me and my siblings were The Breakfast Club minus two members, my sister was the brain, my brother was the athlete and I was the basket case.  Sometimes acting crazy is the only way to get attention with a genius sister and a freakishly coordinated brother.  I also became the writer.  While my sister was off discovering the next penicillin and my brother was being recruited by every soccer team in town, I would write or act the lead in some dorky play.  
     My parents were in the front row at every one of those dorky plays.  I must reiterate, that I do not have a complex because of anything my parents purposely did or did not do.  Being in the middle is just hard.  I have gained these insights into middle childom partly as a victim and partly as a culprit.  As I looked back through some of my blog posts the other day, I realized that I had written a few posts each about my oldest incredibly smart daughter and my youngest remarkably coordinated baby, but only one about my warm, funny, helpful middle child.  Morgan gets a lot of my attention by default.  Between homework, reading, piano lessons and the 30 minute Success Maker computer program I am now supposed to help her with at home, I spend a lot of time with her each day.  We have celebration dinners for her multiple A report cards.  She is the princess of our family because she is the only girl.  Ryan is our baby.  We now cherish every little baby and toddlerism (save the epileptic tantrums) because we know we will never get to cherish them again.  And Hyrum sits and draws pictures of super heroes or builds with his blocks.  He is constantly showing me things he has made in an effort to keep up with his older sister.  Some days I can clearly see him competing for my attention, and yet I still feel helpless.  I try to spend one on one time with him whenever I can.  We play board games (I occasionally cheat to let him win) and we read together. Dirk and I take turns doing special individual dates with each of our children every month.  This month, I took Hyrum to  a special mother/'son Valentine dinner.  We have enrolled him in gymnastics, which he has really enjoyed, and he and Dirk sometimes do special "best buddy" things, like playing with tools or practicing golf swings in the front yard.  We try our best to make him feel like he is more than just the middle child; more than just a byproduct of our desire to have a larger family. And at least he'll never have the challenge of trying to compare with an older sibling of the same sex.  But I do worry that ten years from now, Morgan will be on the Dean's List and Ryan will be a star baseball player and Hyrum will still be struggling to find his niche.  I worry that he will feel inadequate and will act out for attention (wait- he already does that).  I worry that he will have these feelings and impulses because I understand just how naturally they occur.  If I still have a complex after being raised by such supportive parents, what chance does he have?
     My goal is to end the cycle of the Middle Child Syndrome with myself.  No, I am not planning on having another baby.  My only option is to try even harder to make Hyrum realize that he is very much a wanted and valued member of our family.  I will try to help him develop his own unique talents and interests and teach him to be proud of his siblings when they accomplish things too.  People can see that Morgan is a smarty-pants because she is more than happy to let the world know it.  And Ryan charms every person he flashes his gap-toothed grin at.  But Hyrum can be the strong, silent type.  There are so many facets of his personality that only I see.  A few weeks ago, he recited the entire poem, Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll, in a British accent, none the less.  He has also been able to build amazingly symmetrical and detailed structures out of blocks from the time he was a little older than Ry.  He has so much potential that few others ever see.  I wonder if he can see it.  I hope I can help him to.  I can't imagine our family without Hyrum's warm, helpful, sometimes grouchy, often side-splitting presence any more than I could imagine an Oreo without the cream.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


     I have come to decide that seahorses just may be the most enlightened creatures in the animal kingdom.  I came to this conclusion when I learned that it is male seahorses who carry their young.  That's right, it's the daddy seahorses that get to deal with the roller coaster of pregnancy.  I can just imagine a little colony of pregnant male seahorses on miniature sea couches downing pints of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food and griping about their swollen fins.  The females implant the eggs and literally swim away.  They do not spend one minute bloating or puking.  They meet their girlfriends at the reef where they all chat about how fat their mates are getting.  After the male births the seahorse babies, he also swims away.  So, perhaps "enlightened" wasn't the best choice of word, but it's a nice idea, the male seahorses taking on  a burden which is typically carried by females in the animal world.
     It's Valentine's Day, so I'm going to be mushy.  I married a seahorse.  I have been blessed enough to marry a man who carries so many of my burdens for me.  When we first met and started dating, it was all doe eyed, star crossed, nauseating fluff.  It was long stemmed red roses and love letters and secret rendezvous.  These cliched romantic gestures still crop up occasionally and are always a nice surprise.  I loved the smiling, wiry, twenty-two year old baby face who courted me.  But, over the last ten years, I have come to love the man who changes diapers that weaker men would dry heave over; the man who won't let me wash a dish after I've prepared a meal; the man who makes the best scrambled eggs in the world; the man who folds laundry on an almost nightly basis because he knows it's my most despised chore; the man who gets up at night with a crying toddler; the man who has spent as many late night hours in the rocking chair with crying babies as I have; the man who always mows the lawn, shovels the driveway and takes out the trash; the man who brings home a pint of Haagen daz when I have the "mean reds", the man who watches romantic comedies and Downton Abbey with me because he knows I like them; the man who lets me put up a still life in place of his beloved George Washington picture.  In short, I have come to love the man who always puts me before himself.  I'm sure if it were humanly possible, he would have taken the burden of pregnancy from me as well.
     I used to think that love had to mean over the top romantic gestures.  I now realize that love is built on sacrifice and tears, on long days and longer nights.  It is born of mutual respect and admiration; of striving together to become the best people you can be.  I am blessed enough to be married to a man who puts me before himself.  I am also blessed to be married to a man who I not only love, but who I like immensely.  He is my best friend. I would rather spend a night with him in pj's with a bucket of popcorn and a stupid movie than a night out on the town with friends.
     It is a common misconception that seahorses mate for life.  Most species of seahorses change partners several times throughout their lives.  In this regard, I don't think Dirk and I will be like seahorses.  I like to imagine us fifty years down the road, hunched over the table in terrycloth robes, enjoying a plate of the world's best scrambled eggs, courtesy of my very own seahorse.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Old Normal

     The first time someone told me they thought my daughter might have Asperger's was when she was three years old.  To be honest, I had never heard of it, and sounding the word out phonetically, it sounded like some very unsavory dish.  My gut response was to retort, "Your mom has ass burgers!" Thankfully I did not.  I waited for my friend to explain that Asperger's was a very high functioning disorder on the Autism spectrum.  I stared at her dumbfounded.  She explained that the Autistic boy she spent  all day every day helping as an aid exhibited many of the same behaviors which Morgan did.  My friend went home and I sat there on the couch watching my daughter, my perfectly healthy, beautiful daughter.  She spun around in her pink tutu singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  With all my heart I wanted to believe that my daughter was just like every other little girl (except of course much cuter and much smarter).  My mother's intuition, however, wondered at what my friend had said. Within the week I had purchased a book on Asperger's and other related disorders (of which there are many).  The book I bought was filled with checklists ( my kind of book for sure).  As I read through the lists of various Asperger's symptoms related to motor skills, to the way kids with AD play with other children (or don't play), to the way they overreact to minor changes and upsets, I penciled in a little star beside each symptom I had seen exhibited by my daughter.  By the time I had finished starring the last list, the pages were about half full of little gray stars. My stomach sank as I began to think back over the years.  Morgan hadn't walked until she was almost sixteen months old.  She had begun to speak unusually early and was oddly articulate in her speech from the time she was a little over a year old.  She could speak in full sentences before she could walk.  As I read in the book about a behavior technically termed "echolalia", I thought of how Morgan repeated questions back to me word for word, like a parrot, instead of answering them.  This was rather odd, considering that she had about 10 times the vocabulary of most children her age with which to answer me in a rational and appropriate way.  I had never known that Morgan's parrot like answering method had a name and that it was actually a common symptom of Autism spectrum disorders.  I thought of how she would never look anyone in the eye when they spoke to her and how she rarely answered anyone when they asked her a question.  I had always attributed this to pure shyness.  I thought of how she played alone in the corner in nursery and how she lined her My Little Ponies up in perfect, symmetrical rows instead of making them prance around and play.  She did the same thing with markers; with most things, I realized.  I couldn't count the number of times I had walked into the living room to find the coffee table filled with even, color coordinated rows of markers, ponies, crayons, blocks, or other toys.  Suddenly, in my mind, those rows and rows of colored objects blurred together into one giant red flag.
     Thankfully I am married to a man who tends to be much more laid back about things than I am.  When I began hurling figures and statistics at him, he calmly reminded me that our daughter was only three years old and had not even been to preschool yet.  I took a step back.  I breathed.  I realized that he was right.  I decided before we took our toddler daughter to a slew of pediatric neurologists and behavioral therapists, we might want to wait and see how she managed in preschool.  A year went by. The echolalia actually began to die down a bit, although, a few strange quirks and hand gestures took it's place.  We enrolled Morgan in Miss Di's Lot's O' Love preschool.  The Stanger's have attended Miss Di's for generations.  Morgan excelled in preschool.  By the end of the year, she was reading fairly proficiently.  She was only four years old.  That August, Morgan began Kindergarten 12 days before her fifth birthday.  I had briefly considered holding her back, as she was still very shy and didn't interact much with other children.  But the girl was reading Dr. Suess!  She wasn't reading Dr. Suess like many beginning readers do; filled with pauses and sounding out each word letter by letter (much as my six year old son is now doing).  She was reading with expression and confidence.  I decided I would enroll her and let the chips fall where they may.  About two months into the year, her teacher sent home a note asking for my consent for Morgan to work with an Occupational therapist.  I had known Morgan's fine and gross motor skills were a little lacking.  I guess I hadn't realized how far behind she really was.  She couldn't even hold a pair of scissors correctly, while most kids in her class were cutting with ease.  I signed the consent form, and over the next few months, she started to make some real progress.  Then came parent teacher conference.  Morgan's teacher told me she was one of the brightest in the class and that she was the strongest reader, by quite a good margin.  Then she pulled out another consent form.  This one was from the school psychologist.  My stomach knotted a little.  Apparently the psychologist had noticed some odd quirks and behaviors which led her to believe that Morgan had some type of "neuremotor" disorder.  "Like Asperger's?", I thought to myself.  I asked her teacher if she thought that these ticks or quirks were affecting Morgan's academic or social performance.  Mrs.  Hayes looked thoughtful.  It was fairly obvious that Morgan was having no trouble academically.  So I asked, "Does Morgan have friends?" Of course I had asked Morgan at home about the other kids in her class and she told me about who she played with on the playground.  But I wanted a teacher's point of view.  After what seemed like an infinite pause, she answered, "Yes.  Yes, Morgan has friends."  I told her I thought we should let things be for the moment.  There was no way I was going to have my daughter's head shrunk or have her pulled out of class and made to feel different in some way when she was progressing just fine.

     Morgan is now in third grade.  Over the past few years, parent teacher conferences have all been very similar.  I am handed a stack of papers marked with A's, 100%'s and smiley faces.  I am told that Morgan is and angel and a perfectionist.  And then there is always a "but".  "But, she gets so excited she balls up her fists and shakes and turns red in the face until I think she might pass out."  "But, she can't do the math wrap-ups.  It's like her fingers just can't do them."  "But, she gets so upset that tears come to her eyes when she gets to a level of math that's beyond what we've learned in class."  After Morgan's first grade teacher told me that she was struggling with the math "wrap-ups" they were doing, I went straight to Amazon and ordered a bunch.  We spent weeks practicing every day after school.  After a lot of tears and frustration, Morgan finally mastered the wrap-ups.  I sometimes wonder how many more "buts" I will hear throughout Morgan's life and school career.  I still have so many "buts" in my own mind.  I smile when I see Morgan sitting by her friends in her church class, but then I realize that her friends are all sitting and braiding each other's hair while Morgan fidgets in her seat, wringing her hands and opening and closing her mouth.  I am so proud when I come to Morgan's class to listen to them read.  I beam as I realize that she is still one of the top readers in the class, and reads with the most expression by far, but then I realize that she is also the only one in her class constantly rocking back and forth as she reads.  Of course these things don't bother me.  And right now, these little quirks don't bother her friends either.  But what about in a few years?  Asperger's, unlike Autism, which is diagnosed sometimes as early as the age of two, is often diagnosed around the age of ten or eleven, around the age when peers start to notice little differences.  Around the time when kids are ostracized for those little differences.  I can't definitively say that I will never take Morgan to see a specialist.  In a few years, if some of her quirks are causing marked social delays, I will of course consider what the best course of action will be to help my daughter through those trying adolescent and teenage years.

     In some cases, kids need labels.  If a child has severe Autism, that needs to be labeled so that that child can receive the tools and therapy necessary to help them and their family function on a day to day basis.  I sometimes feel, however, that these days, we are much too hasty as a society to put a label on everything.  I think a few decades ago when a six year old boy was bouncing off the walls, people thought, "he is a six year old boy."  Now, more often than not, they say, "maybe he has ADD, or ADHD."  As if labeling every possible behavioral problem our children may exhibit will somehow excuse or explain the behaviors of our children which we can't always control or understand.  Having a child with a disorder is the new normal.  Sometimes I long for the old normal; when, if boys were rowdy, they were sent outside to play, instead of being handed a bottle of Ritalin.  Of course, if Morgan's small abnormalities and odd behaviors start holding her back in any way, I may seek the advice and counsel of professionals.  For now, I try to provide as much love and structure as possible.  And Morgan is thriving.  She just made the straight A Honor Roll again, she loves cheerleading (even if some of the moves get a little tricky for her sometimes), and she even taught herself to ride a bike two summers ago.  I pray in the future that her peers will be kind, that they will be able to look past Morgan's little differences and see the beautiful, bright, funny, witty, caring girl that I see every time I look at her.  Even if Morgan were someday formally diagnosed with AD or some other disorder, I will never look at her as an "AD kid".  I will look at her and I will see Morgan.  Just Morgan.  There is no way to label her.  She is one of a kind.