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! 🙂

Identity and Motherhood

My daughter is an amazing, unique person. I love her style. I love the way she runs around with carefree abandon. Barefoot. In dresses. In Werewolf costumes. I love her creativity. I wonder what she’ll be. Because there is so much potential contained in her beautiful little self. She is truly fearfully and wonderfully made.

I want her to have dreams, and I want to see them come true. I want them to be as far reaching as the stars. Big, big dreams.

I was pondering this the other day and realizing that I was once someone’s little girl. And my mom had all those same thoughts for me. I know she does, because she tells me.

That got me thinking. Thinking about identity. Identity once you’ve become a mother.

I love being a mother. I love my children. I feel the need to put that out there even now for fear claiming I love anything else might undermine that. Because…so often anything else in our lives is treated like it does undermine that love. Like any other aspiration we might have somehow robs from what has now become the primary part of our identity.

Very often when I tell people I’m a writer, the first comment is: That’s so wonderful! You get to be home with your kids.

I find that interesting. As though the only truly great thing about my accomplishments is how I’ve somehow managed to find a way to get paid to make myself available to do the one thing I really should want to do: be home with my kids.

But that perspective underserves the way our family works. I am not ‘home with my kids.’ I work full time at an office in my home. There are many challenges that go with that. My husband is the ‘stay at home’ (HAHAHAHA) parent. Who puts in so many miles on our car getting them where they need to go, who bears the burden of housework and grocery shopping and keeping us all functional.

Yes indeed, I am flexible in schedule, and that’s a wonderful thing. But…I have a job. A job that requires me to put in full time hours and sometimes LOCK my office door and build a security fence around my time.

My husband is a hard working stay at home parent. He spends a lot of time working on his music. He’s good at it. It makes him happy. It’s part of who he is. Because there’s more to him than ‘dad.’

Though, he’s never asked to justify these things. Often, he’s in that unenviable position of justifying his position as full time caregiver to the kids. People always want to know what ‘else’ he does. (And that’s a whole problem too.)

I find people often don’t want to know what ‘else’ moms do. Too often we’re only seen as one thing. Too often we see ourself as only one thing. 

I don’t like it when people justify that I use my time for anything BUT my children. “It’s great because you’re home with your kids.”

I think it’s great because I love what I do. Because it makes me happy. Because me being happy makes me a better wife and a better mom. 

Because I am living out my dreams. Because I’ve kept that part of myself that ran barefoot in dresses and let her hair fly in the wind, just like my daughter.

I don’t want her to lose that when she has children, if she has children. Because I prize all of who she is.

I should prize those same things in myself.

We all should.

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

Silent Saint Complex

For those of you who follow me on any form of social media, you probably don’t consider me silent. In fact, most people who no me in my daily life wouldn’t consider me silent either.

By and large, I’m not. I like to chat, I like to share. But one thing I’m discovering is that I have a bit of a Silent Saint complex. I don’t know if that’s a real thing, but I’m calling at that. What do I mean by that? Well, I tend to do things that I don’t want to do, not say anything when people offend me, and in general my head down when things don’t go how I want all while internally lauding my overall goodness.

It’s a terrible cycle. I get angry about things, but I’ve talked myself into believing that I should say nothing to keep the peace. Then I can sort of bask in my virtuousness and feel like I have a reward for putting up with things that don’t make me happy.

Professionally, this kind of came to a head this week and I realize I would’ve been much better off if I would’ve spoken up. Because people can’t read my mind. I don’t know if things would’ve gone my way 100% if I had spoken up sooner, but the simple fact is if I go on feeling like a grand martyr who says nothing, nobody knows but me.

I’m very conscious of not wanting to be someone who complains all the time. And while I think in general that’s a good way to live, I think in certain areas of my life I’ve gone too far the other way. In my effort to not be perceived as demanding, or to not be perceived as difficult, I will keep silent about things that I simply shouldn’t keep silent about.

I don’t only do this in my professional life, I do it in my personal life as well. I allow people in my life to continue to say things that hurt my feelings because I’m averse to confrontation. But not only that, because I think part of me must get something out of feeling like I’m taking the high road. Like I’m somehow morally superior for slinking out of confrontation and accepting treatment that makes me unhappy. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something good, when really, I’ve accomplished nothing.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense, or maybe it does, if you are one who does it too.

I’m having something of a personal revelation about it actually. Realizing that I have to find the line between being someone who is calling out every perceived slight, and being someone who says nothing until they finally hit a wall and can’t handle what’s going on anymore. In my head I have a hard time seeing the middle ground. I’m so afraid of being the whiner that I let things pile on until I break.

This is not only unfair to me, but to the people around me. Because in my effort to keep the peace, I let myself continue to grow angry with people over things they don’t know offend me. And one day, when I snap on them they will have no warning. And I will be the one that’s in the wrong.

I’m working on correcting this. I faced some things head-on yesterday, they weren’t huge things, but they were things I felt I needed to be heard about. It was hard. It’s difficult for me to admit that I’m struggling with something. And it was very valuable. It was something I should have done earlier. Because, it turns out, that it wasn’t confrontational at all. A discussion was had, both parties were heard, and I think we both walked away from it knowing how to go forward in a way that works better for everyone.

Of course, when you do something like that you can no longer feel like a put upon Saint. Because you have to face your own failings in a given situation. Because you have to hear the other side. And maybe, in many ways that’s what I’m avoiding. It’s much easier to stew and feel justified in that stewing, than have to deal with where you might be wrong.

Anyway, this is my goal. To stop letting things build up. To stop falling into that pattern, and open up the lines of communication when I need to.

There, I feel better. 🙂

24 Hours of Happy

Hey all, sorry but I’m putting up a bit of a filler blog post! I ended up with pretty major revisions coinciding with my lovely editor headed out on maternity leave in just a couple of weeks so I’m head down and working my tail off to get finished in time.

BUT if you haven’t experienced the glory of 24 of Happy, I encourage you to do it. Because it’s amazing and hey, we could all use a little happy!


(I promise to be more insightful when next I blog!)

The Can’t Win Feeling

I know we’ve talked a lot on this blog about ‘mom guilt’ and its fire breathing bad feelings of doom, but it’s something I always find myself coming back to. Why? Because it’s something I haven’t conquered. Likely, it’s something I’ll never conquer. Every so often and I have to reboot. Every so often I have to change my mindset – either to remind myself that I’m doing okay, or to remind myself to put down the iphone and eat dinner with my family.

Balance isn’t my strong point. And I know that. But back to guilt.

Mom guilt is a many-headed hydra, and just when you think you’ve defeated it, another, uglier head grows in its place.

This is the first year we’ve had two kids in school all day. Which has been wonderful on the one hand, but on the other hand, I’m struggling with a feeling of there never being enough hours in the day. School, after school stuff, homework and bed. And with all that, I just went on a big trip to England. And that’s only my first business trip of 2014.

There are four more. One that was just added unexpectedly, but it’s an amazing opportunity and I didn’t want to turn it down.

But with all that is this sort of underlying feeling that I’m never doing enough. That I can’t possibly do enough. (Hey, workout lady with the flat abs on Facebook who wants to know what my excuse is? I’ll send you a list. The file might be too large for your inbox though.)

I can’t do enough with my kids, or my husband, or my parents. I can’t workout and have a job, and watch what I eat and have a clean house, and have a social life, and make crafts and volunteer at school. Maybe some people can, but I can’t. Something has to give, but even with that, even maxing out the list, I sometimes feel deep anxiety over the things I’m not doing.

Someone once said to me that one of the biggest lies we’ve been told is that we can have it ALL. I found that really interesting. Because there is certainly an idea that we can. That we can one day find a magic balancing point where were have home-cooked meals, and abs. Where we can have successful careers, and happy children, and be a sex goddess for our husband’s, be a constant companion to our friends.

And that would be nice. But I’m not sure it’s realistic, and I’m not sure it’s self-friendly, and I’m sure it lends to the idea that we’re not ENOUGH because we haven’t managed to be all those things. At least not all in the same day!

Social media can really exacerbate the feeling. When a Facebook friend posts links to blogs preaching about organized lifestyles, organic, from scratch cooking, ‘upcycled’ furniture and the unmitigated joy of motherhood, when she posts pictures of her clean house and homemade bread, we might think SHE HAS REACHED THE SUMMIT. She is complete. She is all the things I am not. But social media only provides a snapshot, and a carefully chosen one at that. I sincerely doubt that even lifestyle bloggers are as together as they appear.

Heck, I blog. I’m not together.

I’m just trying my best. As are well.

Like I said, sometimes I need a reboot. Sometimes I need to reevaluate the way I’m spending my time. And sometimes I need to chill out and just let myself breathe. And say: I did enough today.

And so did you. 🙂

Taking Care of You

Hi I’m Maisey, and I don’t excel at taking care of me.

I’m currently in wrist braces and battling wicked tendonitis/RSI after having finished another book. The pain was bad enough that I ended up spending the past few days resting. And when I couldn’t take that anymore…experimenting with dictation software and finally coughing up the money to get a new keyboard that will hopefully help my existence be more ergonomic.

I’ve been sort of facing the fact that I don’t take very good care of me.

I mean, I do in some ways, I don’t lie. I cater highly to my vanity. Hair appointments and eyebrow waxing is a big thing for me. And it gets done. Though, it took me a few years and actually having to face the idea of going to conferences to get there.

I’m vain (not detrimentally so…but you know a bit. Just being honest) so I actually do okay with hair, makeup, maintaining my weight, etc. But what *I* tend to ignore are the things that people can’t see.

My stress. The muscles in my neck and back. My tendons. The fact that I’m eating CRAPPY food.

So back to my tendons. The thing is, no one can take care of this for me. No one can monitor this but me. I think we all have those **things** in our lives. For me, it’s my wrists and hands. For me it’s heaping on high levels of stress that I simply don’t deal with (complete with hives!) or let anyone else know I’m dealing with.

These things affect my quality of life, they affect my ability to do my job. But I tend to operate in a manner that shoves my concerns for those things aside.

Why? In part to avoid worrying the people in my life. In part to avoid worrying me. In part because ALL OF ME doesn’t want to do less because I love to do EVERYTHING and I fear missing out on anything that might be important.

But I realize that I can’t keep ignoring this stuff. I’ve been realizing it for a while. I’ve been slowly changing my work space. I bought a better chair for my desk. We bought a massage chair. Now the keyboard and the wrist braces. And the voice recognition which, let me tell you I was dragged to kicking and screaming because nothing about it is natural to me as a writer. BUT the fact remained that I needed to pause and reevaluate the level I put my own health on.

Frankly, it wasn’t that high. And that’s not good.

I’m not big on extremes. For me, everything is about moderation. (FINE except for how much I write in a year. But everything else!) So my goals are to eat more vegetables (I’ve been replacing my cookie calories with salad ones…and yes, I do feel better) pay attention to my aches and pains and address them. Switch to voice recognition when I have tendon pain (because for me, not writing at all just won’t work). Walking every day again to get my muscle tone back. And to be honest with my husband and TALK about things when I’m stressed, rather than shoving it all down.

In my head, I often imagine that making changes requires extreme measures. ALL paleo or running miles every day, taking weeks off of writing to heal up my wrists, etc. But I’ve found that when I look at incremental changes, I’m much more likely to improve things for myself, than when I’m staring down whole lifestyle changes.

So this is me trying to take better care of me. I’ve only got one body and I need to be kind to it! And the same goes for all of you. Take care of you, because you’re the only one who can evaluate some of these things, and you’re the only one who can make the proper changes for you. Change, positive steps don’t have to be drastic, they don’t have to be all or nothing. Even small changes can make a big impact.

You decide…

Question_mark_(black_on_white)We’re casual here at the Peanut Butter moms. I hope y’all have felt that and kick off your shoes, snuggle in and enjoy our blogs. Us moms have talked (via email & in person) about how much we love having this venue where we can openly discuss all things parenting/writing/family related. We’ve covered so many topics, and I’m always amazed at what my sister moms (not the same as sister wives :-)) come up with in their blogs. I learn so much from their wisdom and humor and experiences and I know being apart of this group (and that includes you too, readers!) has made me a better mother.

As we’re closing in on the end of this year I’m wondering though, what would you like to see more of here? What topics do you wish we’d discuss, or rehash? Here’s your opportunity to speak your mind and have your voices heard. We WANT to know so give it to us straight.

And thanks, as always, for sharing part of your week with us.   

The Can’t Win Holiday Conundrum

I love the holidays. I really do. From mid-October to January 1st my life is consumed with them. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. I love it all. I like pumpkins on my porch and orange lights, and pine boughs and red bows. And I like Christmas music. I like Kenny G’s Christmas album, thank you very much. It soothes me. I’m practically radiant with good cheer. I’m sure you can see it, all the way over there.

But the thing is, I’m an adult now. Which means I bear a lot more responsibility around the holidays than I ever have before. And this has increased ten fold recently.

We bought a new house over a year ago, and before then, Holiday Central was my mother’s house. Not so anymore. We now have the biggest house, the biggest dining and living area and are now, by default, Holiday Central.

Last year was my first experience with this. Halloween is easy. That’s us and the kids. No stress. But Thanksgiving? Oh. My. Gosh. The stores may forget about Thanksgiving, but I do not. And neither does my family. Not only did my house need to be clean, but there was food that needed to be cooked. A lot of food. Thanksgiving morning consisted of me grousing at my husband about how I HAD TO DO ALL THE THINGS AND HE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND BECAUSE MEN HAVE TO DO JACK NOTHING BUT WATCH FOOTBALL ON THANKSGIVING.

So this year he’s offered to help. And I’m skeptical. And here is my can’t-win-holiday-conundrum. I blame my father for this, because as far back as I can remember, around the holidays he starts singing Fiddler on the Rood. TRADITION!! Tradition.

Yeah, we’re all about the tradition. And most of our traditions revolve around food. That means I’m very reluctant to allow other hands in my baking dishes, so to speak.

Now, I learned how to make all holiday meals from my mother, so of course SHE’S allowed. But anyone else? *side eye* I don’t know. They don’t know me. They don’t know how much broth I want in my dressing. THEY DON’T KNOW MY LIFE.

There have also been other offers made to me re: bringing food. And I’m of course hesitant to take the help.

This is the story of my life, not just my holidays. I think what it boils down to is that I’m a control freak (yeah, don’t laugh. I’m sure any of you who read this blog/follow me on twitter/know me IRL/work with me in a professional manner already know this, but I’m just figuring it out) and that makes it hard for me to ask for help, but easy for me to flail around whining about how stressed I am because I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO.

I’m not going to do that this year. I’m not. This is me making a resolution. Because it’s okay if the mashed potatoes don’t taste like I would make them. (hesitates even as I type this…) But it’s not okay for me to be growling at everyone on Thanksgiving because I’m marinating in my role as Grand Suffering Mother Doing All The Things (that I chose to do but whatever).

I’m releasing hold. And that’s hard. But I do love the holidays, and I want to keep on loving them. And that means pausing to remember what’s really important, and to enjoy the time with my family.

Except I’m still making the dressing. No one else is allowed to make that.

Easy Meals

Tis the season. Holidays, and cold weather and…for me, deadlines. I’ve added a few special and unexpected projects to my year and they’re all sort of coming to a head right now! That’s all good in terms of my career, but my family is sort of living on food from the freezer for the time being. (If it’s from Trader Joe’s I can pretend that’s totally acceptable! It’s health food, children, now be good and eat your TJ’s Frozen Mac n Cheese.)

I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately, and I know better than that! I’m the proud maker of many an easy meal. I like to fix and leave, and let the oven/crock pot work its magic.  I figured to get me inspired again, I’d share some of my favorites with you…and if you know any PLEASE share them with me!

Crock Pot Salsa Chicken (Level of difficulty: Can you open a jar? Prep time: almost none Simmer time: 3-6 hours)

This is really easy okay…you need…One jar of salsa (your favorite and preferred heat level. We use Pace, mild because…the kids like it that way and I’m a wimp), chicken ( I prefer a bag of boneless, skinless chicken tenders, and I will put it in the crock pot frozen because…lazy) taco seasoning. That’s it.

Put the chicken breasts in the crock pot, then the jar of salsa and optionally a bit of taco seasoning. Let simmer until the chicken is easy to shred with a fork. You can serve this in tortillas or on rice and everyone will love it. Seriously. It’s SO good and it tastes so involved and it’s NOT!

Chicken Bake (I like chicken…as you can tell) (Level of difficulty: can you use a can opener? Prep time: 5-10 minutes Cook Time: An hour or so (I’m very scientific)

Chicken breasts, stove top stuffing, Family size can cream of chicken soup. Chicken broth.

This recipe is not so healthy and I’m sure the sodium is through the roof by OMG it tastes to good!

Pour the stove top stuffing into a baking dish, but your chicken breasts on top, pour on the can of soup. I also like to add chicken broth so nothing gets dry. Bake it at 350 for an hour or so. My kids could eat the whole pan. Heck, I could eat the whole pan. It’s delicious.

Okay, those are two of my oft-used lazy recipes. What have you got for me?