Going Forward

For a few months now I’ve felt like I didn’t know what to say on the blog. Which is, in part, selfish. I’ve used this blog as occasional therapy to deal with the challenges that come with being a family that doesn’t follow a traditional structure, a multi-racial family with a stay at home dad and special needs children.

I field a lot of commentary from people out there in the world, and I’ve used this blog as my mouthpiece from time to time to vent the pain and frustration that comes just from LIVING. I don’t think I’m unique, I think we all have those same challenges, they just take different shapes. We’ve all been hurt by strangers, by well meaning friends, no matter our situation.

But I’ve been grateful for this platform, even if I’ve been an unfaithful user of it.

So, one more time, I’ll use you as my sounding board.

I’m often asked what I think the future will hold. For my family, specifically for my Danger Boy, who has autism. Will he live on his own? Will he be able to have a job?

The simple answer answer is this: I don’t know.

But here’s the beautiful, freeing, marvelous truth, my friends: Autistic or neurotypical, none of us knows what tomorrow will bring.

I know a lot of people don’t find beauty in uncertainty, but I do. The possibilities are limitless, they are unknowable. And since they’re fuzzy, undetermined and invisible to me, I’m free to focus on today. On my 7yo boy’s beautiful smile. On the triumph of him asking for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when yesterday he would have struggled to speak one word of a sentence. When two years ago he said no words at all. (And you can bet, later on there will be peanut butter on my keyboard!)

I can’t see the future. So I look at today.

At my eight year old son, who has made leaps and bounds socially over the past few years. Who is interacting more with his peers, and with us, than in the past I’d imagined possible.

Oh, the years I spent worrying about what would be. And now we’re here, and it turns out it’s pretty darn beautiful here.

I look at my five year old daughter, so perfect where she is right now, right on track developmentally. What a blessing. One I can’t take for granted. Her every word is a miracle to me, because at five neither of my sons could have a conversation with us, and she’s free to fill the silence with her unique perspective of the universe.

I look at my husband, who I married ten years ago this May. You guys, he just gets hotter. Today, he’s even better than he was yesterday. Today, I appreciate him more than I ever could have a decade ago when I stood there and promised to love him forever. I didn’t know what our forever would be. If I had? I don’t know if I would have walked forward. Into periods of financial struggle, of worry and fear and tears for our children, of serious illness in the family.

Thank God I didn’t know. Thank God I couldn’t see the future, a future I might not have been brave enough for back then. But I’m brave enough now. That’s all we need, really. To be able to weather the storm we’re in, not the ones coming down the road.

 

I’m glad we were brave enough to walk into the unknown then. I’m glad we’re here today. I’m thankful we’re still talking forward together, not knowing what’s ahead. We’ll get through. And if the past is an indicator, we’ll even get through it with a smile.

I’ve shared my struggles here, my times of feeling I was walking through the woods without a map. Those times are hard. But I find them especially overwhelming when I’m looking too far ahead, imagining the forest goes on forever. That I’ll be forever lost among the trees.

I wasn’t. I’m not. The future wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.

 

Today is so much more beautiful than I ever could have dreamed. It’s my prayer that I learn to keep my eyes on the present. That I learn to take the future as it comes into the present, rather than whiling my present away, trying to look through the fog and see what lies ahead, worrying, worrying, worrying for the things I can’t predict.

Maybe the road ahead is rocky. That’s okay. I’ll navigate it when I get there. And then? Then I’ll be ready. Or I’ll get ready when the time is right, if the past is an indicator.

This is my hope for all of you. That you might find beauty in the every day. That we would worry less about what’s on the road ahead. That we would rejoice in the moment we’re in, even if it’s raining.

I might not be here on PBK anymore, but I’ll certainly be on my own blog from time to time at my website. I’m also frequently on twitter as @maiseyyates and on Facebook as Maisey Yates, Romance Author. We don’t have to be strangers! 🙂

Oh, the Things You Can Do

“Hi, this is Danger*. He has autism.”

This is becoming a common introduction in my day. And while ago it’s one I couldn’t have managed to make so easily. But as time and acceptance have gone on its become easier to simply say the words that will help other people relate to my son.

When I think back on the journey I can see how far I’ve come. How far we have all come. For some reason I was always afraid I would have a child with autism. It was the thing I didn’t want to deal with. The thing I prayed I would be spared. I don’t know why, I only know that the idea of it terrified me. That the thought of raising a child with those particular special needs seemed bleak.

The diagnosis came slowly, starting with an evaluation when he was not quite two that left us with the evaluator saying: he shows characteristics in keeping with other children who have mild to moderate autism.

I remember sitting on the floor and holding him, crying. Because I knew then. I knew that this was the path we would walk no matter how much it scared me. No matter how much I had hoped, even before having children, that this would not be my life.

But then I realized that he was still the same child I had held in my arms only two hours before. Before those words were spoken. Before any diagnosis was made. A lot of the fear that I had felt, a lot of the crushing worry over the realization that I did have a child with autism was eased. Because I knew this child. And I already loved him.

I think it’s easy to look around at the hardships other people face and think that we could never endure that. That they must be particularly strong, or brave. But I think what it comes down to is that those of us who can face our fears and come out the other side not only surviving, but thriving do so because of love.

I think of myself as a normal parent. I am a normal parent. A normal person.

I’m stumbling through the same as anyone else, making mistakes, sometimes feeling sorry for myself, readjusting my expectations, readjusting my perspective.

But we aren’t just surviving, we are thriving. Autism isn’t something I have to endure. It isn’t something that has come into my life to steal the joy, as I imagined it would be. I didn’t think I would be up to this challenge, but my perspective on it was all wrong. Like all parenting, like all of life, it is a daily challenge. Sometimes we get knocked down by it, but then we get back up and keep going because it’s all anyone can do.

I look back on the frightened mother that I was, holding her child, feeling like the weight of all her deepest fears was resting on her and I can only be happy that I was wrong about my future. Because it was not something to be endured, but something to be embraced.

I’ve learned that when love crashes into a challenge, that challenge doesn’t stand a chance. Love makes so many hard things easy. It makes walking into the frightening things possible. I suppose this is why the greatest is love.

You all know from previous blog posts that this isn’t always easy, but nothing is. We all have challenges whether they’re small ones on any given day, or marathon challenges the stretch on for months, years. But it is amazing what we can do. It is amazing what we can do with a smile on our faces.

I know I’m amazed at how something that terrified me so much, something I was afraid would destroy everything I had, has become a part of our lives in such a way that I can’t even imagine it lifting out. It’s a part of what makes the shape of our family. A family that is imperfect, but held together by love.

Life presents us with so many unexpected challenges, and it’s tempting to sit down sometimes and cry. That’s what I did. But in the end I got back up. And that’s the important part.

Whatever your challenges, keep moving. Keep going. Keep loving. You are stronger than you think you are.

*the names of the Dangerous have been changed

There Are No Guarantees in Life

This has become a sort of motto of mine. It’s a strange one maybe, and one that I think some people might find dire, but in my situation, it’s been the key to me moving forward. And bear with me because it’s a concept that can sound kind of depressing, but I promise you it’s something that’s helped me.

Kieran mentioned in yesterday’s post about how having a child with special needs forced you to let go of that dream you had for them when you held them in your arms at birth.

That’s so very true. It’s a grief that’s hard to talk about. Hard to define. The loss of your child’s future. Of who you thought they would be.

I remember the moment I had to start letting go of the future I imagined for my son. We’d just finished his final autism evaluation. I’d been through it with my oldest and they’d said ‘developmental delay’. But I remember knowing, even as I dug in and denied it, that wasn’t what they were going to say to me after Danger Boy’s eval.

He hadn’t looked at them through the whole process. Hadn’t played with any of the toys. I remember letting them out the door and watching the therapists drive away. And then I sat on the floor with my two year old boy and held him while I cried. And cried and cried. Nobody saw that. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone (and now I’ve told everyone! hi!).

All I could think of was: He won’t be able to have the job I thought he’d have. Will he get married? Will he have children? Will he be happy? Will he ever look at me? Will he talk?

I don’t know the answer to all of those questions yet. Yes, he looks at me. He talks quite a lot now at five, but other questions? I don’t know the answers to them.

Then a couple of years ago a man I’d been friends with in high school developed a mental illness. His marriage fell apart. He lost his job.

And I remember thinking: you never would have known that’s what the future had in store for him.

Yes, that’s a little depressing, but I turned that over and I looked at my son. My son who I worry about so very much. Who I’m afraid won’t have that future I envision, that future that is, in my mind, the perfect future, and I realize nobody has a guarantee.

A more positive spin on that is that I didn’t know I’d be a romance writer. Not in the least! I didn’t imagine falling in love and marrying at nineteen. I know for a fact it’s not what my parents thought I would do. But I did, and for me, it was the perfect future. But it’s not the one they imagined. And it’s okay.

I look at my son, or at people going through the store with their typically developed children and I get angry sometimes. At the world. At that adorable child who points and says ‘mama look!’ because my son can’t. And I mourn the future again.

Then I remind myself that I have to take it a day at a time. Even if my son were a typical child, (whatever that means) I wouldn’t really know his future. And I don’t know it now. And that’s okay. I’m free to love him today, I can hold him, he’s here with me. He hasn’t ‘lost’ anything, and neither have I.

He’s meant for something great, I believe that with all of my heart. And that greatness may not lie in a future that *I* would consider perfect. But that doesn’t mean it’s not perfect for him.

Saying goodbye to the those future dreams is hard. But they’re an illusion. The child that I have now is real, and that’s where my focus needs to be.

There are no guarantees. But there is today. Today I can hold my son. Today I can kiss him. Today he might say a new word. And if I let the future fall away, I can truly enjoy those moments.

What One Mother Has Learned About Grief and Loss

This month at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard, we’re talking about moms and loss and the grief that comes with it. But that’s not a bad thing or a sad thing.

It’s ironic, really, that talking about loss and grief can actually be uplifting. After reading Ellie’s poignant posts about her miscarriages, I felt so inspired. I want to be a coffee bean like Ellie. How can I give? How can I change the world through what I’ve learned? And same with Robyn’s post on having polycystic ovarian syndrome…she’s created such a good life in spite of her infertility. She’s an awesome mom, and she won’t let any sense of loss or grief deny her the joy she finds in her family.

As I was contemplating my own journey as a mom who’s experienced loss, I sat and tried to hold it close so I could write about it easier. But I’m having a hard time doing that…reliving the intensity of the anguish of expectations that didn’t come true. And I’m kind of glad. I’ve experienced a ton of loss as a mom–and terrible, wretched grief about it. But I’m at a new place. And it’s a place with a lot less fear because I already know the ending. That’s the beauty of becoming an older mom, I suppose. I already know that whatever happens to my children and to me as their mother, the love is there. It won’t die. It will be stronger than ever. Good will win.

In the long, long run, good always wins. I think that’s the most profound thing a person can learn, and I learned it through my experience as a mother.

I think back on the last 21 years—that’s how long I’ve had my son with mild Asperger’s Syndrome–and it’s been a real odyssey. I was afraid Nighthawk (that’s what I call him on this forum) would be ostracized as a child and a teen. Well, sometimes he was. I was afraid he’d be depressed about that. Yep—occasionally, he was! And I was afraid he’d be lonely, confused, and scared. Well, gosh darn it, he certainly was all three, many times.

The grief you feel as a mom to see your child hurting is excruciating, and I hid the depth of mine from everyone for so many years. What else can you do but move past all the incidents of hurt? You have to keep going. But I remember one particularly bad time when we were visiting friends in Spain. It was our last night there. Nighthawk was a teenager and his American cousin, a boy the same age as Nighthawk, was quietly invited over to a Spanish girl’s house—probably for a romantic goodbye–and Nighthawk was not, although he was her friend, too. He was visibly upset, both sad and angry. Usually, you hide when you’re hurt, especially in front of people you don’t know well, but Nighthawk didn’t. My brother took him aside and tried to explain to him the concept of being a “wingman:” yes, guys stick together, but if a special girl one of them likes enters the picture, the other guy understands and gladly steps back.

I tried to intervene, too, but there’s only so much a mom can do. It’s really up to your child to figure it out for himself. So while I watched Nighthawk try to process what had happened, I got through the rest of the awkward dinner with our Spanish friends with dignity and good cheer. I was a guest in this country, and I owed them that.

Even as I went back to my hotel with my sister, who was my roomie, I acted as if the hurt hadn’t happened. I pretended along with her that it was a beautiful night in a charming town in Spain. How often would experiences like this come along? She thought it was a kindness to me to forget the incident at dinner, so we tried for normalcy back at the room, laughing and talking, happy to be two sisters having a European adventure.

But I couldn’t sleep. I remember sitting up in bed and saying something like this to her: “What happened to Nighthawk was so painful to watch. And I’m tired of everyone just acting as if everything’s okay around me for the sake of moving on. My grief is real. I’ve been pretending for 17 years that I’m okay. But I’m not. And I’m scared that the hurt will never stop, for him or for me. I wonder how we’ll endure.”

That moment was a turning point for me. My despair, my sadness, all had its roots in being afraid. I wasn’t sure that I could handle the truth.

But here is that truth: my son wears his heart on his sleeve. He doesn’t have the instinctive social filter he needs to protect himself. He’s not sophisticated and never will be. He’s smart, though, and through a lot of practice, he can learn to navigate the world. He’s come such a long way already—he’s a junior in college now, he speaks several languages, he has friends and a part-time job. Embittered people sometimes use his vulnerability to entertain themselves. The kind ones are wonderful—helpful, friendly, and loving. But Nighthawk won’t always be around kind people. Perhaps more than the average Joe, he may get hurt, over and over, for the rest of his life.

This is not what I wanted for my boy when I birthed him.

When you’re low—truly low—you have two choices: to actually embrace what scares you or to hide from it. If you choose the former, you choose to live. If you choose the latter, you die inside.

And when you choose to live your truth, the big miracle is that strength and peace just come. In abundance! Some people call it grace. Some call it God. All I know is that since that night in Spain, I am living wholly. And those fears I faced—aloud in the presence of my sister—lost their power.

Those damned expectations I had the day I held Nighthawk in my arms for the first time as a newborn baby…well, they were phantom dreams that held me back from living my real life. They kept me from seeing vividly, every day, that I can celebrate the fact that my son is living his truth with courage, humor, and compassion. He’s a walking testament to the power of love and what it can do in a person’s life.

So this is why I’m in a new place. Sure, I know bad things can happen to Nighthawk, to me, to my family, my friends, and to the world. But I’ve experienced utter despair. I have used that power in me—whatever you want to call it–to stare down the fear, to somehow turn myself, despite all odds—like a rusty, stripped screw–from denial to reality.

And each day, I remind myself that the power that turned me is there. I call it Love. It’s truth and grace and God…it’s all that’s left in us when we think we’re empty. So in a way, I’m glad I’ve been reduced. I’m glad I know pain. I’m blessed to be the mother of Nighthawk, and I wouldn’t change a single bit of our path. To be fully alive, you have to be where you are. Not settling—no, indeed, we must fight hard sometimes to make things right—but having faith that truth will lead us to the place of peace and power inside us that allows us not only to survive but thrive.

That’s all I have to offer the world. That’s me being a coffee bean. I hope I’ve brought you hope—the way Ellie and Robyn have brought me hope. We’re meant to share it.

Every mom has had to witness her child’s pain. We tend to make it our own, don’t we? And every mother deals with expectations that didn’t come true. I’d love to know how you handle yours, if you’re willing to share. XOXO


Hi, I’m Kieran. My family loves music and anything that makes us laugh out loud. Along with Chuck, my husband of 23 years, I try to teach our kids that we have to actively choose happiness–and if I accomplish nothing else as a mom but pass that one lesson along to them, then I think I’ve done my job.

My oldest guy, Nighthawk, was diagnosed in kindergarten with Asperger’s syndrome, and now he’s a junior in college; his sister Indie Girl, who’s younger by 16 months, is a college sophomore; and my youngest, Dragon, is in ninth grade. For our family, it’s about managing your weaknesses and wringing everything you can get out of your strengths. And along the way, finding joy.

www.kierankramerbooks.com

My Family Doesn’t Look Like Your Family

Or hey, maybe it does! But it doesn’t look like everyone’s. It’s not normal. But then, what is normal, right? 😉

This idea of normal and the fact that I don’t seem to fit into it, used to bother me a little bit. I mean, I didn’t think it did, but…what other people thought was more of a concern than it should be.

January 1st marks the beginning of a new chapter in my family. My husband is quitting his job. I’m going to be the primary earner. Well…basically the sole earner.

We reached the point a few months ago where we saw this coming. The fact of the matter is, it makes sense for us. With two jobs, our schedule is insane. Neither of us are ever caught up, we never see each other. One of us is always working. A nanny or babysitter, while not simple for anyone, is especially complicated for us because we have one boy with autism and one with ADHD. And of the two jobs, mine is the better job.

So, we came to this point. And as we were discussing it, what other people might thing came up. Heck, there were people who offered opinions. People who were concerned my husband wouldn’t feel valuable. That we wouldn’t be portraying a good family model for our kids.

That kind of stuff is a little demoralizing, and yeah, you start to question your decisions.

And then we both kind of went: Wait…WHAT?

Our situation is not everyone else’s situation. No one else has to deal with our schedule, no one else has our kids. We’ve been blessed, I think exceedingly so, with the things we have. And one of those blessings is my career.

There came a point when I realized, I think part of the reason life is so insane, part of the reason we we’re keeping it this way, is for the sake of other people. That makes…no sense.

My family is mine. They are different. Our situation is different. But truly, isn’t everyone’s?

Ultimately the happiness and health of your family is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than looking normal (whatever that is).

I know it’s hard for some people to understand. I know I’ll feel the need to justify the fact that my husband is a stay at home dad. I know sometimes people will make me feel like I’m not doing ‘my job’ and he’s not doing his. But hey, don’t people do that no matter what you do?

I can’t express how much freedom I’ve found over the past month or two just embracing the fact that my family isn’t normal. My family is the Yates family. We only have to look like us. We only have to function for us.

I mean, for heaven’s sake, we’re a bi-racial couple with three kids, two with special needs, my husband was raised on a school bus and I’m a romance writer. We never had much hope of looking normal, but we have every hope of being happy.

And that’s all that matters.

So, this is my battle cry, for you and for everyone: Be happy. Don’t worry about what anyone else things. Make your family work for you.

I’m really looking forward to this next phase of our adventure. Our family doesn’t look like everyone else’s family, but it looks pretty perfect to me.

Some Days I Don’t Want to Talk About It

Danger is almost five now, which means his delays are becoming a lot more obvious. When a two year old won’t answer your questions, you write it off. When a five year old won’t…well…

This is ushering in a new and interesting phase of The Autism Challenge.

I live in a small town, and I love it. People are friendly, they talk to you. Cashiers offer your kids stickers. It’s great. But…

But there’s Danger.

People in line try to talk to him, and he doesn’t talk back. The cashier tried to give him a sticker, and he doesn’t look. They want to know why he’s not potty trained yet when I take him to church (we’re actually making progress on that front!) people stare when he makes his happy noises.

And I have to answer. “He can’t tell you his name.” “Sorry, he probably can’t answer. He has autism.”

I didn’t consider this part of the equation. I’m sort of used to him (except the wandering…that I could do without, but that’s a whole other post…) and when he makes a triumph at home, we all understand it, because we know what he’s working with. We get excited when he points to something and says ‘this!’ because that’s progress and it’s amazing.

The outside world doesn’t understand that as progress for a nearly five year old boy. As the well meaning pastor in the kid’s wing at church said regarding the potty training: I’m sure you’re working on it.

And I wanted to yell at him. I WANT THE CHILD TO LEARN TO SAY WORDS. I WANT HIM TO LOOK ME IN THE EYES. POTTY TRAINING BE DARNED!!

But the outside world only understand how kids are ‘supposed’ to develop. When we go out there, we’re working with a deficit in their eyes. Not like here, where a two word sentence is the best thing ever.

But when we go somewhere, that’s not the case. People don’t see what he can do. They see what he can’t do.

And you get the people who don’t want to believe you when you say he has autism. “Is he a younger sibling? His brother probably talks for him.” (Yeah, well, except his brother had a horrible speech delay and didn’t speak until three…) Or I get looks of wide-eyed sympathy and questions like ‘do you think he’ll ever be able to live on his own?’

Well, gee, I don’t know. He’s five. Does it seem like your five year old can live on his own right now? No, it doesn’t seem like it. But in twenty years? Who knows.

These people are well-meaning. They certainly don’t mean me any harm, but some days…I don’t want to talk about it. And it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to NOT talk about it when I go out with him. I find myself staying home more. I can’t go to play date things because of the wandering…and if I did? Well, we’d still end up talking about it.

I’m aware this post has a certain bit of irony to it, since I’m talking about it. But then…sometimes you HAVE to talk about it. Or at least be honest about the way it affects your life.

I think the hardest part of it is knowing people look at your child and see what he lacks. He’s the most beautiful boy. He doesn’t deserve for people to see what he can’t do. The autism of course helps insulate HIM from those concerns…but not me.

This is a new phase we’re in, one I’ll do doubt get used to. But it’s one I didn’t really anticipate. One where your personal struggles, your life, feels more exposed to everyone you come into contact with.

Have you run into stages like this? With special needs or typical kids? Where you felt like you were, for some reason, more prone to stranger comments?

And on a completely different note…

A blogger friend of mine is supporting Charity:Water this holiday season. Right now, she’s doing a comment drive. People have pledged to donate money, just for your comments! Here are some of the offers:

  • Limecello is going to give $300 if they reach 1,000 comments.
  • Cecilia Grant will give $1 per comment up to 100 comments
  • The Romance Manwill give $50 when we reach 250 comments will match Limecello’s $300 if we get to 1,000 comments!!!
  • C2 will give $150 when they reach 500 comments
  • Farrah Rochon will give $10 for every 100 comments

So please, go, comment and find out more about Charity:Water and what you can do!

In the Forest

Note: I wrote this blog shortly after being traumatized a bit. I want to post it still because it was a really honest reaction to what I was/am going through, and I want people in similar situations to know, you aren’t alone. But I wanted to add a note to let you all know I’m feeling better now. 🙂

This wasn’t the blog post I was going to write. Not even close. In the past month we’ve been on vacation, moved, gotten a dog, I’ve signed with a second publisher been to RWA…it’s been a huge thirty days. I was going to talk about change.

Now I’m going to talk about things not changing enough.

It’s especially ironic considering my last post, but I think that’s parenting in a nutshell. The feelings are different every day.

Today I feel like I’m in the woods. I know they end somewhere. But I don’t know where. I thought I was closer than I am. I can’t go back, the option isn’t there. And I wouldn’t. Except I just want to sit down and give up today.

We moved into our new house a week ago. The first thing we did was put chains on the doors. Then we fenced the back yard. Why? Danger. Danger is an escape artist. He wanders. We thought we had it.

Tonight he unlocked his window and got out while I thought he was sleeping. We went to bring his dog to his room and he was gone. I’ve experienced this three times now. They have been the longest, most hellish moments of my life. I would go through unmedicated childbirth ten times over to never experience them again. To have avoided ever experiencing them. In those moments you realize how all those brilliant things that happened in the past thirty days mean nothing if that child isn’t coming home to you.

Thank God he was safe. Thank God.

I thought he’d progressed past this point. I thought he was progressing and I suppose he is, but it’s easy to let something like this steal that feeling. Like an alcoholic who loses their sobriety and has to start the count again. I’ve never seen him stim like he was tonight either. He was totally overdone.

Here’s the thing about parenting a special needs child: No one asks you if you’re up to the task. I’m not special. I’m not stronger than anyone else. But just like the mother of a typical child I love my son. More than myself. It’s the love that keeps me going. Without it, I would just be lost in the woods. As it is, I’m lost in the woods with that love pushing me forward.

Tonight I thought, I just don’t want to do this anymore. And then I thought WHY ME? And then I looked at him and thought, I love that kid. And so I keep going. Because I need to. Because I can’t do anything else. Because my son is precious to me beyond words. Because he’s brought me joy that surpasses the sorrow.

Maybe that sums up parenting for everyone. You will never know love so deep, joy so profound or sadness so intense as you do when you love a child. Adopted or biological, son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson or granddaughter. Because they are in our care. Vulnerable to us.

And again, I wish I could see the edge of the forest so I’d know I was getting there. So I’d know I could make it through this okay. So I’d know I wouldn’t let him down. That I won’t let my other beautiful kids down either. But I don’t know. I can’t tell. So I keep walking. And I hope that love makes up for my missteps. I hope my kids’ guardian angels work extra vigilantly to cover where I fail. I pray that God is there to catch them when I don’t.

This isn’t the blog post I was going to write. But it’s the blog post I needed to write. Someday I’ll write a blog post about the shenanigans of our new golden retriever. Or about Diva picking grapes in the backyard. Or Drama and his impressive knowledge of geography. But today I had to write this. Right. *grabs walking stick* I’ve got to keep on hiking through now. I can’t see the end. But I hope love lights my way.

The Great Yates Disney Adventure

There have been a few times in my life that people have looked at me like I was insane. Okay, more than a few. I remember when I was pregnant with my second child and people would ask me, “How old is your oldest?” My reply of “He’s one.” was often met with a slack jawed stare and the question, “Was this one an accident?” My very confident. “No, we were trying to have him.” Was usually replied to with. “Are you nuts?” (would that I were making this up.)

Well, this happened to me again recently. “We’re going on a family vacation!” And the reply is of course. “What are you doing?” “Disneyland for four days!” And yes, I got that look again. Or a verbal, are you nuts!?

The Yates babies are currently 6, 4 and 2. Throw special needs into that mix and anywhere we go is nothing short of an epic production. In Target yesterday we were most certainly the center of attention, and that was not our intent. At least, it wasn’t mine.

So yes, taking them to Disneyland for four days, for our first family vacation was…maybe a little ambitious. But I am SO GLAD WE WENT.

I was talking to Danger’s therapists just before school let out, and I was telling them we planned on taking a Disney trip. I expected them to ask me if I was crazy. Disney is noise, and sounds (loud sounds!) and there’s no routine, and it’s basically just plain crazy. What I didn’t expect was for them to say…good.

But they did. They told me it might even be good for him to experience something totally different. And, my friends, it was. All of the kids loved it. Probably no one had more fun than Drama, the six year old. But Danger is the one who needed it most.

There was something about him being in that new environment. I found out things about him. Things he could do that I never would have imagined he could. Things he liked that I wouldn’t have imagined he would like.

Danger loves roller coasters, it turns out. He’s less thrilled about animatronic pirates, even when one favors Johnny Depp. He also FINALLY went in the potty while we were at Disney and now I know he understands when I tell him to do it at home! (I’m sure he didn’t mean to betray this bit of information, but he did!) My husband took him into the bathroom and he said, “you can go back to the roller coaster after you go potty.” Uh, yeah, guess what he did effortlessly a few moments later?

And we could see the fireworks from our hotel room. And it was the coolest thing. My oldest and youngest were ooohing and ahing and Danger said “FIREWORKS!” Yep. And then he oohed and ahed with the rest of the kids. There’s a point to all this, other than just to say we had a blast and my kids are adorable.

If we listened to other people, we might not have gone. If we would have let all the what-ifs stop us, we wouldn’t have gone. But we took a chance. And I’m glad we did.

One of the things I noticed about Disney was how many families with handicapped family members were there. And they were having fun. It’s easy to think, at least it was for me, that your life will be limited by having a special needs member in your family. And yes, there are those who have children with more severe handicaps than I have, and yes, there are limitations that can’t be helped, but in this case, it didn’t prove true for me.

A few years ago I might have said, oh, we won’t get to do family vacations like a normal family. But we did. And it was all the sweeter because of our Danger. I’m glad we went. I’m glad we pushed him, and us outside of our comfort zone. It was totally worth it.

Do you have any family vacations stories? Good or bad?

In Denial About Summer

I kind of hate summer. There, I said it. Summer does not make me happy. Maybe if I lived some place lovely where summer meant 75 degree days and afternoon rain showers. But no, I live in Dallas where it gets so hot that you can hardly bear to be inside with your overworked air conditioning (which can never keep up), much less actually venture outside into the 100+ degree oven daily. And it is just not natural for it to still be 95 degrees at midnight. Seriously.

But now I have an added thing to make me dread summer. Lack of school for kidlet. Up until last summer he’s been in part-time daycare. So it didn’t matter when summer came because his schedule stayed the same. But now that he’s going to the special preschool program with the school district, that program ends just like all the others for summer. And since he’s still not potty-trained at four (please God, let this click soon), that means daycares now won’t take him and summer camps are out. So our only option is a drop in daycare that we use on occasion. I like the place, but it’s limited and he’s going to get bored if he goes there too much.

But mommy (that’d be me) has to write a novella and full novel by the end of October. And there’s no way I’m going to get all that done without some kidlet free work time. So basically, I’m in denial. I’m refusing to even think about the long days of trying to keep a very active, very intense child busy.

So I’m appealing to you moms out there. What are some activities you use to keep your little ones busy during the summer that give you a little bit of quiet time in the process? And am I the only one with her head in the sand about summer?


I’m Roni Loren, or as I’m called ‘round these parts, No Drama Mama. I’ve been married for ten years and have a four-year old son, who has recently been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. My days are spent writing very sexy romances (my PC way of saying erotic),avoiding all things housework, and hanging out with a kidlet who I suspect is vastly smarter than I am. I secretly dream of having a life that looks like the pages of Real Simple magazine, but would settle for Sorta Decent if could get there. My daily goal is to keep the drama on the pages of my books and out of my life–I’m successful at least twenty percent of the time. www.roniloren.com

The Polite Child Faces the World of Rudeness

So one of the jobs of a parent is to teach your children social norms, how to interact with society, and hopefully, how to be polite and friendly person. And having a child with autism means this is an even bigger focus for my household because my kidlet doesn’t have that finely tuned sensor that picks up those social cues like a “typical” child would. So we work with my son on learning how to engage people, how to have a give and take conversation, and what things could be considered rude. It’s a painstaking process at times.

However, earlier this week I had to bring him to school instead of him riding the bus because they were going on a special field trip. And as I was waiting outside with him, other kids were streaming into the school for their normal day. Well, my dear kidlet saw a little boy walk by who looked to be kindergarten age–so probably a year older than him. And kidlet perked up and said, “Hi! How are you?” And I’m thinking–well, look at that, my son is reaching out and engaging a child. Score!

But then the kid turned his head and gave my kidlet this snotty, what’s-your-problem look. Of course, kidlet didn’t register that reaction. He just smiled and waved at the boy.

Then, not thirty seconds later, another boy–probably eight–pulled onto the sidewalk on his bike. Kidlet–always one to be excited by the simplest things–said, “Wow, I like that bike!”  The kid rolled his eyes and said in a sarcastic tone, “Whatever. That was so three weeks ago.”

My jaw probably hit the grass. I kinda wanted to trip the kid right off that damn bike. He was old enough to see the child talking to him was all of four. And I was standing right there, holding kidlet’s hand.

And that’s when reality truly sank in–the world, especially in kid land, is mean and cruel. I’m trying to teach kidlet “social norms” but what if social norms mean being a bratty jerk? Here kidlet is being innocent and trying to practice what mommy and daddy are telling him are the “nice” things to do, and he’s shot down or ignored over and over again. It breaks my heart a little each time. I know it’s part of the deal. Kids certainly weren’t nice all the time in my childhood either. But it seems it’s only getting worse. Now they don’t even seem to keep it in check around adults.

It’s ugly and it’s sad. And it makes me want to build a cocoon around my sweet, innocent boy even though I know that’s not realistic or preparing him for the world at large. But knowing that he has deficits in those social areas makes me worry even more for him. He doesn’t have the tools to defend himself right now and probably won’t for a while–if ever. It’s like being thrown into war with a toothbrush when everyone else has machine guns.

But despite all that and all my worries, I have to say, I’m glad I have the polite child even if it come with lots of challenges. He may be an anomaly amongst his “normal” peers, but that doesn’t make the other kids behaviors the right ones. A lot of them could learn something from him.

*end rant*

I really did want to trip that kid.

How do you handle it when your child is picked on or other children shut them out? What social norms do you try to instill in your own children?


I’m Roni Loren, or as I’m called ‘round these parts, No Drama Mama. I’ve been married for ten years and have a four-year old son, who has recently been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. My days are spent writing very sexy romances (my PC way of saying erotic),avoiding all things housework, and hanging out with a kidlet who I suspect is vastly smarter than I am. I secretly dream of having a life that looks like the pages of Real Simple magazine, but would settle for Sorta Decent if could get there. My daily goal is to keep the drama on the pages of my books and out of my life–I’m successful at least twenty percent of the time. www.roniloren.com