Old enough–finally

As I write this, I am in St. Joseph, Mo, my parents home town, visiting my grandmother. Grandma Gray, as I’ve always known her, is now 94. Though she lives in an assisted living center, she requires very little assistance. She still gets around pretty well, exercises daily, and is as sharp as tack. One of the greatest gifts in my life as been that she has lived long enough for me to know her as an adult as well as a child. I brought my two young children with me for this short trip. My daughter, who is almost seven, loved every moment of her time with Grandma Gray. My son, who is four, certainly had fun–generally–but seemed to actually bounce off the walls a time or two. All in all, it’s been a good visit and I’m so thankful I came.

My Grandpa Marc, my Grandma Gray and I when my daughter was just an infant.

That hasn’t always been the case for my visits with my grandmother. Don’t get me wrong. I love her dearly. I always have. And she is a genuinely nice and caring person–to strangers. Among family, she can sometimes be harsh and judgmental. She has smothered me with disapproval and criticism. Throughout my twenties, even though I was college-educated, gainfully employed, married and managing my own finances and household, she treated me like a child. Nothing I did was good enough. And I’m the kind of person who continually strives to be not just good enough, but perfect. I’m the kind of person who feels criticism deeply. I can’t tell you the number of times she would give me some task to do while I was visiting. She’d have me put up wall paper trim or rehang the curtains or frame some photos. Jobs that weren’t big, but that she couldn’t manage herself. Things I would gladly do for her–except that she’d stand over me, watching, criticizing and huffing with disapproval.

This attitude has never been limited to these menial tasks she gives me, I merely use them to illustrate a point. All my life she has disapproved of my weight (I’m not obese, but a good twenty pounds over weight). And don’t even get me started on my career … no wait, too late. I’m started. She didn’t like romance novels. Thought they were smut. She once told me my book made her sick to her stomach. (Honestly, I knew she wouldn’t approve of the premarital sex in them and begged her not to read my books. I even considered not telling her my pseudonym.) Once she asked how much I made per book. Idiot that I am, I told her. For years after she introduced me by saying, “This is my granddaughter, Emily. She writes smutty novels, but at least it pays well.” As if those two things weren’t enough, as a nice little cherry on top, she never trusted my opinion. My husband and I could give her identical advice and she’d ignore me completely and then jump on board the second he suggested the same damn thing.So you can see why–even though I love my grandmother and cherish her many good qualities–I haven’t been eager to visit.

But an interesting shift has happened in our relationship over the last few years and I think I have my children to thank. I think–regardless of my age–she never saw me as an equal until I had kids. Somehow, having kids, magically made me into a person worth listening to. Or maybe, now that I’m a mother, I finally have things to say that she’s interested in hearing. Either way, I’m glad for the shift in our relationship. (It helps that she’s changed her attitude about my books, but that’s a topic for another post.) I’m so thankful that she lived long enough for me to know her as an adult. For the past seven years, we’ve shared a unique camaraderie. We are both part of the great sisterhood of mothers. Okay, so maybe it’s not unique. I bet nearly half the people in the world are mothers. Maybe new is a better word. However I describe it, I’ve enjoyed it immensely Finally, she treats me like an adult. Today, she even took financial advise from me. It feel like I’m ushering in a new era.

Do you have any difficult relatives? How do you manage them? Has your relationship, like mine, changed over time?

Enough with the “Mommy Porn” Label – Moms Are Still Women

relax and read every once in a while

Photo by Carlos Giesemann (click pic for link)

I know we usually talk about our kids on here, but I have a subject near and dear to the kinds of books I write that is kind of driving me crazy. If you haven’t been living under a rock–or even if you have–you’ve probably heard of the book 50 Shades of Grey. It’s the BDSM erotic romance that has broken out into blockbuster status. It’s been on the Today Show, 20/20, and even Dr. Oz talked about it today. It’s everywhere.

BDSM erotic romance is what I write, so obviously I’ve been paying a lot of attention to this hoopla. Mainly because I’m amused that everyone is talking about how scandalous and new this is when BDSM romance has been around for a LONG time and has been a thriving subgenre of romance for at least a decade. But anyway, what’s getting REALLY old is the media’s portrayal of books “like that” being “mommy” porn.

First of all, porn is porn. Romance novels are romance novels. The two are not the same. If a “mommy” wants porn, she can go on the internet or buy pay-per-view like anyone else. If she wants a sexy story with a plot, developed characters, and love story she picks up a romance novel. But here’s the thing–why is it so scandalous that moms are reading sexy books? Once we procreate, are we relegated to being washed up women with used uteri (uteruses?) who are now supposed to focus on nothing but making the perfect lasagnas and singing choruses of Sesame Street songs with our kidlets?

Yes, we do those things (well, I still haven’t gotten the hang of lasagna). We ARE moms. That is a hugely important role in our lives. But it’s just one role. We didn’t lose our woman card in the process. We’re still sexual beings who like a little naughtiness on occasion (or often, lol.) We still like to be swept away by romance. We still want our husbands to give us that how-you-doin’ look. We still want to feel sexy and wanted and feminine. And there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. Moms shouldn’t be shamed for wanting those things, and calling sexy books “mommy porn” is shaming, plain and simple.

I’ve had enough of it.

So if you like your sexy romances, be proud. Read them in public, pass recommendations to your friends, and never ever apologize for what you like. You’re probably having a lot more fun once the kids go to bed than those who are looking down at it and calling it “mommy porn” are. 🙂

SHAMELESS PLUG AHEAD – feel free to look away…

Here’s my book, Crash Into You,  if you want to give a BDSM romance a try. (I even have one coming out next month that’s about *gasp* a married mother.) And if mine’s a little too naughty for you, all the other moms on here have some super fab smexy books too. : )

So how do you feel about the whole “mommy porn” label? Do you feel like you have to hide what you read so you don’t get judged by others?

Roni Loren wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. Though she’ll forever be a New Orleans girl at heart, she now lives in Dallas with her husband and son. If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her reading, watching reality television, or indulging in her unhealthy addiction to rockstars, er, rock concerts. Yeah, that’s it. Website: www.roniloren.com

Help! My Kids are Killing Me!

Hello. My name is no longer Midnight Mama. It is STRESSED THE HECK OUT Mama. =)

Once upon a time…before I had kids…I used to think that I was a very laid back, go-with-the-flow kind of person. Now, however… (see above picture).

I still try to be the laid back mom of my dreams, but the truth is that I’ve become a frazzled wreck lately. My nearly 18-mo, WonderGirl, still insists on being picked up whenever I’m standing. Which means if I try to do something around the house, I have to deal with her screaming her head off if it’s something she can’t help me with (such as doing dishes or cooking). Okay, to be honest, it seems like she’s screaming her head off, anyway. My sweet little angel has decided that she NEEDS certain things (which somehow usually ends up being something she’s not supposed to have, which we keep up high out of reach, or something her sister has)…and when she doesn’t get those things, then she falls to pieces. By “falls to pieces”, I mean she hits and pulls hair and swipes objects off tables or throws objects to the ground…all of which result in time-outs, of course, but I think I could really deal with all that except for the incessant screaming. Oh, and when I’m not standing, then she and SuperGirl are crawling all over me and screaming at each other about who gets to sit in my lap. *headwall*

My nearly 3-yo, in comparison, is a dream right now. Except, of course, when she doesn’t get what she wants, either. Which is usually exacerbated by her sister taking one of her toys or SuperGirl not wanting to share in general with her sister, or having her sister attack her when she’s angry, or SuperGirl not wanting to get her diaper changed or not wanting to eat dinner or not making her needs understood (articulation issues) or not wanting to…well, I think you get the gist. So she screams/cries/whines, too.

Thus, at the end of the day (and many times hours before that), I feel like I’m going to explode. I’ve invented a “game” we can all play called “scream time”, where I count to 3 and on 3 we all scream as long as we want at the top of our lungs. You know, this way I’m not screaming AT them so much as WITH THEM. 😉 But seriously, it’s the only stress relief I’ve found to work a little when I feel like I’m about to snap.

Please tell me you feel like you’re going to snap sometimes, too. Please tell me I’m not the only parent who counts down to bedtime.

But even with all that, even when I don’t think the day can get any worse, at least I DO know that it will eventually end when they go to sleep.

Only, I’ve found that I stay stressed hours after they’re in bed. It makes me snippy (something Mr. Rome does not appreciate) and I can’t even focus on writing or writing-related business. I’ve tried taking a shower, reading, taking a bath, taking a nap…nothing helps. I still feel tense and jittery and crazed, really. I’ve thought about exercising at night after the girls have gone to bed, and that’s my next choice, but that means I can’t listen to music while I exercise (which is the one enjoyment I get out of exercising, anyway), because I have to listen to make sure they don’t wake up and cry.

So, dear blog readers and fellow moms, please…PLEASE, I beg you…tell me how you stay sane during the day with your kids and how you de-stress successfully at night. HELP! My kids are killing me!

And coincidentally, at the moment I am NOT experiencing teh bebe fever. *shudders*


I’m Elise Rome, AKA Midnight Mama because I’m usually burning the midnight oil. If SuperGirl (2, with a speech delay) and WonderGirl (1, my very own hip attachment) aren’t getting up in the middle of the night, then I’m busy working on writing and writing-related business until early morning…usually 3-4 am or so. Both my husband and I stay home with the girls (he’s a writer, too! www.lukasholmes.com), but usually I’m focused on them throughout the day and only get started working until after 8pm when they’re both in bed. I’m a former Texan now living in Colorado who desperately misses no-snow winters, and my parenting goal is to raise my daughters to be strong, intelligent, and independent women…much like the heroines I write, as a matter of fact. I’m a recovering perfectionist, recovering procrastinator, and perpetually aspire to keep the house clean (because it never actually is). When I’m not chasing around my daughters or adoring my cooking/cleaning/diaper-changing husband of 8 years, I write historical romances about women who fascinate me and men who somehow always remind me of Rhett Butler, the first literary hero who captured my heart. www.eliserome.com

How to Write a Novel During Naptime

It’s a great pleasure for us to have guest mom and fellow author Leigh LaValle at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard today! Welcome, Leigh–we’re so glad to have you here!

Thanks for having me here at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard! It’s great to connect with other writer mommies. I’d love to share with you ten valuable lessons I learned while writing my debut novel, THE RUNAWAY COUNTESS, which released March 6.

10 Oh-So-Easy Steps for Crazy People: How To Write A Novel During Naptime

1. Tell you friends you will see them in two years. If they would like to talk to you while you are doing the dishes, cooking dinner and/or in the shower, they need to keep their phones nearby incase you call sometime next month.

2. Schedule your next hair appointment for 2014. The same goes for mani/pedis and shopping trips. Your heroines can look fabulous. You will look like a crazy woman. Exercise, healthy food, sunshine, these things are good. Anything else gets weighed against page count and word goals.

3. When it is time to write, turn off the phone, turn off the internet, and write. If possible, go to the library. (This is especially necessary if you are working at home and your husband needs to ask you a million questions about matching baby socks and the recipe for pb+j.)

4. The time leading up to writing is your launch pad. Make use of it. While waiting the million hours it takes for a baby to fall asleep, focus on your story. When you last left your characters, what were they feeling? Where do you need to take them today? When it is time to sit your butt down and write, hit the ground running. (Hmm, that metaphor doesn’t exactly work, but you get what I mean 😉

5. It is not possible to do a load of laundry while also writing. I do not know why this is. I simply know it is a Law of the Universe. A load of laundry will become a million other chores and reasons why you should not just write. Don’t do it.

6. Ah, tired. It would be so nice to take a nap, especially while a baby naps. Lots of sage advice about this. It goes something like “Nap while your baby naps.” I have nothing to say, other than you cannot write a book while sleeping. It is terrible, but there it is.

7. It helps to write a bit everyday. Even if you only eke out a few hundred words, it will pay off the next day. Take three days off in a row, and when you sit down to write again you will have to relearn the English language.

8. Give yourself a lot of time (it took me two years to write THE RUNAWAY COUNTESS). Writing a novel during break time is a bunch of little baby tortoise steps. Sometimes, it feels like you are going nowhere.  Sometimes, this is true. It helps to set weekly word goals and stick to them. Just know what is realistic (and I’m not talking about magical realism here.) Know what you can do, do it, eat your reward cookie, get some sunshine, rinse and repeat.

9. “Some may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Elvis said that. Wait… Know that you are not alone. A lot of writers begin their career during break time. A lot of moms write their first book while balancing family responsibilities. Find other crazy people who understand. Join RWA. Chat online (just not during your writing time.) Dare to dream.

10. Just write.

What about you? How do you squeeze in time to write (or read)? One random commenter will win a digital copy of THE RUNAWAY COUNTESS (to be announced Wednesday).

Thanks for joining me today! You can find me on Facebook and Twitter. Visit my website at http://www.LeighLaValle.com

It is well with my (writer’s) soul…

Okay y’all today I’m going to get real. I’m talking baring my soul kind of honesty today. Everyone always talks about how much becoming a parent will change your life. We all know that. We’ve lived it. And those changes to our lives vary as widely as our lifestyles. But there are always surprises. I’m not sure what all your surprises were, and I don’t really have time or room to hit on all of mine, but I wanted to touch on some of the more profound surprises. First a little backstory – as you’ve probably gleaned from some of my previous blogs, the Professor and I had a long road to become parents which included lots of fertility treatments, some failed adoptions and more tears than either of us were prepared for. So there’s that aspect of my life. And then there is my writing. I have had my share of successes in this business. I’ve written for two different publishers, made some money, won some prestigious awards and been praised in Publisher’s Weekly, the Chicago Tribune and Booklist. But I have had my share (more than my share, if you ask me!) of defeats as well.

I lost my contract within weeks of becoming a mother and most would see this as a blessing, in disguise, of course. That’s what everyone always says, isn’t it? “Oh, you can’t see it now, but this is actually for the best.” Um, for whom, exactly? Yes, it was nice to not have to be on deadline while I was learning the ropes of motherhood and fielding some significant issues with our new kiddos. The stress was unbelievable. The girls weren’t free and clear, the parental rights hearing was scheduled, but we had months to wait for that to happen and then many more obstacles to clear before the adoption was all finalized. in those dark early days I was faced with my greatest fears…I had prayed for so long to become a mother, but I hadn’t realized I’d have to trade my career to achieve it. I felt punished and frankly very lost. I floundered. A lot.

My friends (mostly my writer buds) fielded insane calls and emails from me where I spouted craziness and panic and people would tell me to relax, enjoy the time off, the industry wasn’t going anywhere, I had plenty of time. But I’d been a full-time writer for the bulk of my adult life. I’d only been a mother for such a small amount of time and well bonding isn’t necessarily instant when you’re dealing with kids that you may or may not get to keep. As much as I loved them instantly and wanted, with my every breath, to be able to keep them, that certainty wasn’t there and I know (thought I tried not to) I held myself back just a little. Self preservation. I’d been hurt. A lot and well, I was terrified.

But back to the writing….the worst part was that I felt not only that I had lost my actual career, but I had lost my writer’s soul. The voices had gone quiet. Part of this I know is because (and here’s one of those surprises I mentioned) I am a dyed-in-the-wool introvert and I love to be alone. I love quiet. Well, y’all know kids are anything but quiet. They make noise ALL THE TIME. My silence, my quiet, my sanity was shattered. I had no refuge, no way to refill my well because I was surrounded by noise all the time. It was a huge adjustment and I won’t lie, I still miss it, but I know how to deal with it now and I get my time which helps.

Okay so no voices in my head (those of you who aren’t writers, it’s okay, I’m not crazy, they aren’t scary-I-need-medication voices, just harmless imaginary character voices 🙂 ) In any case, at some point I started working again, just kind of going through the motions. I had completed a rough draft at some point before the girls and was ready to start revising the whole thing. Poor Emily heard more than anyone should my incessant whining of how I’d forgotten how to write, the characters weren’t working, the writing was flat, etc. I worked and I worked and it seemed every word I added or every word I cut was painful. Of course it didn’t help matters that I’d decided to work on the most challenging book of my career, a big historical romantic suspense full of a large cast of characters, multiple viewpoints, lots of dead bodies and a heroine with a disability. Okay, so sometimes I’m not that bright.

Needless to say after an enormous amount of time and energy I finally finished that damn book and I’m waiting to hear from NYC on it. It took me forever and it doubled in size during revisions. But still through all of that, the entire process was excruciating, I don’t think I had any days in there that went well, where the words flowed or the characters whispered in my ears. So still I believed that somehow along the way I’d lost the magic, lost my writers gift.

And then last week something amazing happened. I started working on a new idea, something that just sort of sprang from my mind, something not quiet as plot-heavy and the ideas just started pouring out. The best part, the characters are talking. At night while I’m trying to sleep, during the day while I’m playing with the girls or we’re watching something on PBS. And at nap time I sit down at my laptop and write. It’s not easy, writing is never easy for me, but it’s working, and I feel at peace.

Maybe everyone was right, maybe this time away from deadlines has been just what I’ve needed to heal and grow and all that good stuff (though I’m still not convinced). But as my father always says, it is what it is and well the only thing to do now is move forward, keep writing and know that eventually I’ll find the right combination again and my career will start yet again.

So how about you? What was your biggest surprise in becoming a parent? And what kind of sacrifice have you made in your life for your family?

I’m Robyn DeHart, AKA Basket-Case Mama, but not because I’m crazy (though really, what mom isn’t?) but because I have a slight obsession with baskets, well containers really. I’m a bit of an organization nut and I love to containerize stuff. And yes, I’m authorized to use words like that because I am also a writer. But back to the kids, so I’m mom to two ridiculously beautiful little girls and I can say that without bragging because I didn’t actually make them. Last year my husband, The Professor, and I adopted said little lovelies from the foster-care system here in Texas and now we’re a big happy forever family. Busybee is three and so full of joy it just oozes from her. Babybee is a walking-talking toddler who has a heck of a temper but is so cute, it almost keeps her out of trouble. Though neither of my girls are newborns, I’m fairly new to motherhood compared to the other peanut butter moms, but we’ve settled in as a family as if we’ve always been together. When I’m not trying to keep up with my two bundles of energy, you can usually find me on my laptop on Pinterest, no, that’s not right, um…you can find me writing, yes, that’s it, writing my latest historical romance. www.robyndehart.com

Mothers-In-Law…They Exist. They Love Us. In Their Own Way.

Okay, I’m the luckiest. My mother-in-law is my favorite. My favorite anything. Just my favorite. Her name is Dorothy. Friends call her Dottie. I call her Mom because she’s simply that…my second mom–and so special to me.

Another person who can claim the title of mother-in-law to someone is Anne Lamott, the renowned author of OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS, a fabulous book about her early years as a mother to baby Sam. She’s now written (with the adult Sam) SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED: A JOURNAL OF MY SON’S FIRST SON, which is in part about her experiences being a grandmother and mother-in-law. Anyway, Anne shows up at the end of this post in a hilarious interview and comes across as a great mother-in-law, but I wouldn’t trade her for Dorothy. Not for a skinny minute would I even consider it! In fact, I will mud wrestle anyone who says they have a better mother-in-law than Dorothy Wentz Kramer.

At first, I was a little afraid of Dorothy (for the purposes of this post I’ll call her that, and it suits her: she’s as wholesome and sweet as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz). But Dorothy scared me at the beginning because the day I met her, my husband introduced me as–

His fiancee. With the little accent on the first E, of course, if I only knew how to make one.

That poor woman. I would kill my sons if they ever introduced their future wives to me as their fiancees before they were plain old girlfriends! And the worst of it was, I met Dorothy on the day she was giving A Party for the Boss, my father-in-law’s boss, and it was a fancy party for at least fifty people! Can you imagine how discombobulated she must have felt? I remember her standing in her kitchen and looking out at her dining room table, where each empty party dish had a slip of paper inside with phrases like clam dip, mini quiche, and mushroom pate (although the actual dishes were much more sophisticated than the ones I list here–she’s the queen entertainer!). I sensed her drawing herself up inwardly and deciding that she would forge ahead, no matter what! Which is no surprise–she was a Navy captain’s wife, and nothing disturbs the spouses of our senior military officers.

So anyway, there I was, the fiancee, and I showed up about five hours before the big party.

Dorothy was so gracious.

We’ve had 23 fabulous years together since that day. My second mom has stood by our little family through hardships and good times. At one point, I lived with Dorothy and my father-in-law Ted, with two little babies in tow and a husband absent at sea. Mom was the best. We drank International flavored coffee together and talked and watched movies, and she’d take me to her women’s club functions. She did everything she could to support me through the lonely times with my husband gone and the scary times when our children got sick–both had medical emergencies when we lived with Grandma and Grandpa Kramer.

Best of all, Dorothy never questioned my abilities as a mother. She gave me respect, and she helped me feel competent when I didn’t know what the heck I was doing!!!

I wish for all you moms out there a mother-in-law you can talk to and share good times with. No relationship is ever perfect. I’m sure I’ve let my mother-in-law down sometimes. I’m the worst picture taker in the world, for example, and I tend to forget birthdays, which is so self-centered of me. But I know she loves me, and I love her. We are true family.

Now, to celebrate MIL’s, watch this hilarious outtake from an interview with the genius writer Anne Lamott. She has a lot to say about being a mother-in-law…or maybe a lot not to say…you’ll see what I mean.



My Favorite Toddler Apps

I know some of you are going to balk at the idea of giving toddlers an iPhone or iPad to play with, and be even further appalled by the fact that I have spent money downloading apps for said toddler.

But let’s face it. Sometimes we need 10 minutes of distraction so we can get the laundry folded, or keep the toddler from having a meltdown while waiting in the pediatrician’s office, or so we can finish dinner at a restaurant without shoving huge forkfuls in our mouth.

And what do we have on hand? Our phone or notebook, of course! I thought I’d share a few apps I like and also ask for your recommendations.

Learning Touch First Words: Deluxe ($4.99)

This app presents your toddler with a picture and the letters to spell the item in the picture. The letters are scrambled, and the narrator says the word (“cat”), and the toddler has to drag the letters into a box. In the box, the word is in shadow, so the player can see where each letter goes. The narrator says the letter and the word, when the picture is touched. When the word is spelled correctly, the item does something (“meow”). Teaches words, letters (upper and lower case), reading from right to left, etc.

Teach Me Toddler ($0.99)

There’s also Teach Me apps for older kids. The toddler app focuses on numbers, letter, shapes, colors, phonics, and counting. The toddler is presented with questions and when they are answered correctly, the player is given positive reinforcement. If the answer is incorrect, the player is told why. (“That is a triangle. Find the circle.”). After three correct answers (depending on the settings you choose), the player gets a virtual sticker to put on one of five or so scenes (playground, farm, etc.).

Elmo’s Monster Maker ($3.99)

There are a lot of great Sesame Street apps. Baby Galen really likes Grover’s Number Special, but I like Elmo’s Monster Maker because it’s constantly updated and is just fun. It doesn’t teach much, unless you have a small toddler learning the parts of the face, but it is a quick diversion. Basically, Elmo presents a series of monsters who need eyes, noses, and hats. The player chooses one and then gives him or her the necessary items from seasonally-themed choices. When the monster is done, the player can play with the monster by making him or her dance, play with Elmo, or the player can take a picture (which is then saved on your phone or notebook) of the monster creation.

Now, it’s your turn. What are your favorite apps for kids?


Shana Galen, Multitasker Mama
I’m Shana Galen, AKA Multitasker Mama (and aren’t we all?). I’m a wife, mom to a two-year-old daughter I call Baby Galen. My parenting motto is, “Keep moving. Don’t pass out. Don’t throw up.” Or maybe that’s my fitness motto? www.shanagalen.com

Guest Mom: Author Pamela Morsi

Secrets of the Special Needs Mom

All moms are special and, heaven knows, all moms have needs. But there are those among us, like myself, who have found ourselves singled out in the crowd. Our children, because of health issues, genetic mutation, accident or injury are defined as Special Needs. We, who are their moms or dads are called Special Needs parents.

I bet there is one of us right in your neighborhood. You’ve seen her, at school or daycare, in the park. Maybe you’ve even admired her from afar as she stoically faces untold challenges raising kids that are “not off the rack” so to speak. One thing you feel certain about, is that she is nothing like you.
You’ve seen her on the airplane. Her child is frantically flapping his arms and making strange squawking sounds, while she continues speaking to him in a calm, modulated voice. It’s as if this giant scene her child is making, that is visibly annoying the businessman in the second row, doesn’t upset her a bit. She must be a hero.

Perhaps you’ve seen her on the nature trails. Her child’s motorized wheelchair has somehow managed to get snagged on a stray tree root. Her little boy, who was so looking forward to this outing, has limited speech, but a normal temper. He keeps slamming his hand down on the forward button, screaming, “WANT GO! WANT GO!” as she gamely attempts to lift the combined weight of chair and child. What a hero.

Or maybe she was the mom you saw sitting in the stadium viewing stands awaiting her daughter’s big moment as a Special Olympics medalist only to hear a smart-alec middle schooler behind her say jokingly, “So now we get entertained by the retards.” The fact that she does not stand up, turn around and slap the teenager’s expensive orthodontia right out of his smug, self-satisfied mouth makes her a hero.

The larger than life Special Needs Mom is almost a cliché in our culture. They are selfless, devoted and endlessly patience. They are nothing like you. You are the parent of a “typical” child. That’s a nomenclature thing. We don’t call your child “normal”. If we were to do that, then that makes our children “abnormal”.

Our children are not abnormal. And as parents, honestly, we are very much like you.

I’m not surprised that you wouldn’t know that. You’re certainly not alone. Television shows and movies seem to always depict the parents of children with challenges as truly stellar characters. And even on the news, we get to see that Dad that pushes his wheelchair bound son in the marching band or the mother who gave up the fascinating anthropology work or the fashion runway to stay home and spend her days trying to make eye contact with her autistic offspring.

“God provides Special Children with special parents,” my pastor told me one time.
Talk about wanting to slap somebody’s teeth out! (And it would have been easier than the teenager’s as the pastor’s were only held in by Fixodent.)

With very few exceptions, handicapped people are not born to those who volunteer to rear them. For most of us, well, it was more like we were drafted.

Never, in my remotest imagination did I think that I would end up a Special Needs Mom. Healthy, happy, solidly married, financially secure, not too old, not too young, great genetics and an uneventful pregnancy somehow led me to this road less traveled.

I didn’t immediately recognize it as off the beaten track. After a scary emergency C-section, where the fetal heart beat stopped twice. My beautiful Leila slipped into the world screaming bloody murder. Wide-awake with a full head of hair, she was the most beautiful newborn that I had ever seen. And she was adorable. Who could resist her? Definitely not me.

They kept her in the hospital for five days running tests, but found no problems. Her Apgar was good. She was healthy. Maybe she was a little overdeveloped. Post-maturity they called it, but didn’t raise any red flags. I took her home.

She was the best baby ever. People commented on it all the time. I assumed it was my excellent parenting skills. In order to sound more modest I told people, “Heaven looked down at me and said, ‘This woman can’t handle much. Send her an easy one.’” Everybody laughed, just as I intended. I had no idea that the joke was on me.

I’ve learned a lot in my daughter’s lifetime. Lots of lessons I never even knew that I needed. One day I was at lunch with a work friend who said, “I could never do what you do.”

I should have smiled, thanked her for the implied compliment and let it pass. But on this day, I didn’t. I filled her in on the secret that I’m sharing with you.

“Oh yes, you could. Oh yes, you would.”

Parenting is parenting, and it’s a continuum. Some little ones can be born in this world and with virtually no guidance manage to find their way to successful adulthood. Others can be born unable to breath without assistance.

Here I’d like to quote a couple of rhyming lines that the kids learned, useful when handing out prizes or treats that were perhaps not all the same size, color or desirability.
“You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

Whenever or however you take up the mantle of parenthood, we all know it does not come with guarantees. The dad who wants to re-live high school football stardom through a son, seems destined to be blessed with a bevy of pretty pink princesses. And the mom who found Debate Team so empowering, is often dumbstruck with her child’s ambition to be a cheerleader. Special Needs parenting is, more honestly, a dimension of that than it is a noble duty or a cross to bear.

Yes, it can be stressful, exhausting, thankless and sometimes scary. Welcome to motherhood. Every mother/child relationship has days like heaven and days (maybe weeks) like hell. Being mom is simply not easy.

I think the thing that’s maybe harder to convey is that we love our children as much as you love yours. The sight of them doesn’t scare us or repulse us. We see them with the same loving eyes with which typical parents gaze upon their typical children. Which brings me to the biggest secret of all?
We don’t envy you. It may be unexpected to hear this, but we love our children as they are. The problems they have are the problems that we’re used to. And the pluses that come with that, outweigh so many things that we once valued.

Every morning when Leila boards her bus to the Sheltered Workshop where she is employed, she has a smile on her face. In the afternoon when she comes home, she’s still grinning. She loves her job. When her tiny paycheck comes, she wants to rush to the bank where she is so proud to write her name on the back. None of my typical children are as happy, as fulfilled, as contented with life.

So many times, at so many milestones, I’ve tried to imagine what Leila might be like if she were typical. And my conclusion continues to be, she wouldn’t be Leila. She is funny and hardworking, endlessly optimistic and interesting. She’s devoted to routine and she keeps the rest of us in line. She is a vital part of our nuclear family and unlike her siblings, she will not be going off to form her own unit, to have her own children or live a separate life. She is ours forever. That makes our world different, but it doesn’t make us different. And it doesn’t make us heroes, merely parents.

Pamela Morsi writes fiction that depicts the lives of ordinary people overcoming everyday challenges. And she manages to do it while putting a smile on your face. After a successful career in the historical romance genre, Pamela Morsi ventured into contemporary fiction with her titles for MIRA Books, including, Bitsy’s Bait & BBQ, Red’s Hot Honky-Tonk Bar and The Lovesick Cure. Being a writer was a childhood ambition that got sidetracked by life. Despite having a graduate degree in library science, a marriage, children and a career, Pam had never met a real novelist and didn’t have any idea how to become one. Then one fateful afternoon, on her birthday, she came home from work in tears. “I could have been a writer,” she told her husband. “I could have been a writer, but now because of you and this house and these kids, it’ll never happen!” He was sympathetic… for a while. A few days later, he bought her a computer and set it up in the corner of their bedroom. “You can’t quit your job,” he told her. “But I can take care of the cooking and the kids. You have every night and every weekend. Write your blankety-blank book or shut the blank up about it!” Now, twenty-four novels later with her full share of great reviews, awards and bestseller listings, she’s still not sure how one goes about being a writer, except by simply sitting in the chair and typing one word after another. Pamela does this consistently from her family home in San Antonio, Texas.

Letting Kids be Kids: Parents Recovering from a Strict Childhood

My husband and I were both raised in what I would consider fairly strict households. My stepfather was a Vietnam veteran and from an early age my brother and I were told that he “didn’t expect us to love him, but we would respect him.” The basic attitude of the household was that we would need to learn what responsibility meant as children so that one day we would turn out to be responsible adults. Not a bad philosophy, in my mind.

I think my husband and I both learned as a result of our childhoods to respect others, and this is still one of the values that is very important to me as an individual as well as a parent. I want my children to grow up to be respectful of others, too.

But one of the things that my husband and I have had to catch ourselves on with SuperGirl and Wondergirl is the realization that sometimes–and actually a lot of the time–kids just need to be kids. Childhood memories for us consist of our parents telling us not to run in the house, to have inside voices, not to be too boisterous (ie screaming and rough housing), to pick up after ourselves as we go along, to not get our clothes dirty, etc etc.

And because that’s what we learned, we’ve been tempted to apply the same rules in our household, even though our children are just 2 and 1. To be honest, I think it’s a little optimistic (and possibly ridiculous) to expect a 2yo and a 1yo to even understand some of those rules, let alone expect them to obey them. Maybe it was an unrealistic expectation, but even if the girls did understand and obey 100% of the time, I’ve realized that I don’t really want them to be little women.

I want them to be kids.

I want them to jump and play and scream and laugh and just have fun. Although it’s noisy and sometimes someone falls down or knocks something over, nothing makes me happier than to watch WonderGirl chasing SuperGirl through the house (and it’s even more fun when I chase both of them). Although they might get dirty and get new scrapes that make them bleed and cry, my girls love playing outside in the yard–discovering dirt and rocks (which WonderGirl then brings inside the house) and bugs and birds.

Instead of getting more annoyed when every noise sounds like a scream and letting it fray my already frazzled nerves, we now have “scream contests” where I do a 3-2-1 countdown and then we all scream our lungs out. After doing this a couple of times, I have to tell you that it really releases a lot of stress. Now I think I love screaming as much as my girls do. =)

I know this isn’t going to seem like a big deal to some parents, because your parents may not have been as strict and didn’t expect you to act like little adults, but this lesson really has been eye-opening for me. While I know that we will teach our daughters as much as possible to be good people and grow into responsible adults one day, for now the most important thing to me is not that they obey a hundred rules on how to behave, but to just be happy. I think if we start with that, the rest will follow with love and patience and guidance.

Did you grow up in a strict household? If so, do you have the same rules your parents did, or have you changed your parenting style? What’s your favorite thing to do to help your kids “just be kids”?


I’m Elise Rome, AKA Midnight Mama because I’m usually burning the midnight oil. If SuperGirl (2, with a speech delay) and WonderGirl (1, my very own hip attachment) aren’t getting up in the middle of the night, then I’m busy working on writing and writing-related business until early morning…usually 3-4 am or so. Both my husband and I stay home with the girls (he’s a writer, too! www.lukasholmes.com), but usually I’m focused on them throughout the day and only get started working until after 8pm when they’re both in bed. I’m a former Texan now living in Colorado who desperately misses no-snow winters, and my parenting goal is to raise my daughters to be strong, intelligent, and independent women…much like the heroines I write, as a matter of fact. I’m a recovering perfectionist, recovering procrastinator, and perpetually aspire to keep the house clean (because it never actually is). When I’m not chasing around my daughters or adoring my cooking/cleaning/diaper-changing husband of 8 years, I write historical romances about women who fascinate me and men who somehow always remind me of Rhett Butler, the first literary hero who captured my heart. www.eliserome.com