Navigating the Wild World of Motherhood
This year, the Greater Austin Walk Now for Autism Speaks attracted over 3,356 walkers and raised over $139,000 for autism. My family joined the fun and together with Michele Utt from MK Events, MommyQ’s team raised over $3,000.
It was surreal to see all of the families like ours unite for such an important organization. Autism Speaks did a wonderful job organizing the event and the sponsors did a great job making the day extra-special. My boys loved the Home Depot workshop where they got to swing hammers to create wooden keepsakes crafts like toolboxes, boats and cars. My little guy managed to sweet talk a lady working the Home Depot area into giving him the demo Joey Logano car with the pristine paint job. Go figure, right?
I’m already looking forward to next year and brainstorming themes for our big pre-event cocktail party. Drop me a line if you have ideas. A special thanks to Michael Gardner Photography at www.Homeandgardners.com for sharing his wonderful photos with me. His photos are watermarked. The rest are mine. Not as good, but they do have heart!
When the fabulous Michele Utt of MK Events asked me to partner with her to throw The Bachelorette Watch Party, I was intrigued. When she mentioned this amazing party would also serve as a fundraiser, I was impressed. When we decided it would benefit Autism Speaks, I was ecstatic. My happy heart (in combination with my inner party diva) is thrilled to announce The Bachelorette Season Finale Watch Party, August 1st from 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Proceeds will benefit Walk Now for Autism Speaks in Austin. Tickets to the event can be purchased online for $40.
This event is shaping up to be one of the best Girls Night Out parties ever held in the great state of Texas. The swag bags and silent auctions items alone are making us swoon. Plus, we’re adding new ones even as I type. Take a look at ALL of the AMAZING people & companies who are involved. They deserve a mega-shout out! Woo Hoo.
Why Autism Speaks? My readers know autism is close to my heart, because my oldest son was diagnosed when he was three. The biggest thing we need as parents and as a society is access to critical data about autism and more resources for families struggling to understand it. All of these autistic youngsters will be adults one day. Who will support them? How will they lend their special vision, talents and skills to society? They need to thrive! Lastly, let’s figure out what causes it. There are too many unsubstantiated theories. We need answers!
Okay, stepping off of my platform now…
- A special thank you goes out to our sponsors: Baldwin Beauty School (thank you, Wendi!), Premier Data Com and Warren Kull with www.yourlaketravishome.com, for supporting our event and compassion towards the cause.
- Enjoy complimentary appetizers by Mandola’s, wine by Flat Creek Winery, cocktails courtesy of Treaty Oak Rum and Graham’s Texas Tea and dessert a la Michelle’s Patisserie. Bouquets of red roses fill the room courtesy of Flowers By Nancy.
- Chef Paul Peterson, (www.chefpaulpetersen.com) who was featured on TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters and is currently the executive chef at Austin’s favorite Tex-Mex Restaurant, Vivo. will be firing up the kitchen and serving some tasty eats!
Swag Bags valued at over $700 and are yours to take home!
Swag Bags Sponsored By:
~Oak Haven Massage
~BASE Personal Training
~Kendra Scott Jewelry
~Shandi Nichelle Co.
~Don Rogers Photography
~Creative People Marketing & Design
~Hill Country Galleria
Silent Auction Items Include:
~Zoom Whitening by Lakeway Smiles
~$300 in Kendra Scott Jewelry
~Gift Certificate to Spa at the Lake
~Spray Tan by 360 Tans
~Gift Basket by Blue Avocado
Guests can bring swimsuits to watch Ashley make her final decision, because this estate has a fabulous pool with a panoramic Hill Country view. (See, we think of everything.) The address will be given after you have purchased your ticket. Tickets may be purchased for only $40 at www.mkeventsaustin.com or for $50 at the door. There are a limited number of tickets and we anticipate them selling out quickly.
Imagine seeing one your favorite, most cherished family pictures on a hugely popular website like iVillage. Smiling faces on us, stoic looks on the kids, big brown eyes shining, cute little hands captured perfectly, beautiful surroundings, sunny days, happy hearts. I remember how the boys were running around barefoot and laughing and how cute, yet cheesy, they looked in their matching outfits. They even listened to all of my pleading prior to the photo shoot by diligently staying out of the dirt.
Now imagine the words “Signs of Autism” and “Real Moms Share” splashed across the top of that special picture. That means one of those sweet, little, innocent faces is the real face of autism. That means it’s one of your kids, because that’s you smiling right above it. Would that change the way your feel about your child? Your family? Your dreams?
Read Real Moms Share the Earliest Signs of Autism on iVillage.
A few years ago, I’m not sure if I would’ve been excited to see this image. A few years ago, I’m not sure my family would’ve been excited to see this image. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so quick to share it on Facebook and Twitter, or text my husband about it or call my mom about it or blog about it. A few years ago, we weren’t comfortable with autism. We were skeptical, scared, insecure and unnerved. Today, we know autism isn’t a dirty word at all, it’s simply a new way of looking at the world.
There’s something about autism that reminds me about the way people used to talk about cancer. They’d lower their voices and whisper, “she has cancer.” And the word “cancer” was hardly audible. Obviously, autism is not killing our friends and family members, but people still whisper about it sometimes. Today, people shout about cancer from the rooftops and that’s exactly what they should be doing. Why? Because talking about something, especially when it’s bad, makes it real. Real things get noticed. Real things get funding. Real things get cured.
I tend to think discussing autism works the same way. Reading this post right now is the definition of “awareness,” a word that gets tossed around so much it’s watered down like a bad margarita on a hot summer day. But awareness is critically important. That’s why I force myself to discuss autism openly, honestly and nonchalantly, even when I don’t feel like it. The old me would’ve NEVER done this. The mom me who has two beautiful boys and never wants them to be ashamed of autism, well, she’s a talker. She’s an advocate. She’s all about awareness.
Understanding the early signs of autism is so important. Even if you have fears your child might be autistic, doesn’t mean that’s actually the case. There are plenty of sensory, learning and speech delays that don’t warrant an autism diagnosis. Every story is different. And if you do get an autism diagnosis, welcome to the club. You don’t get an actual badge, but you if you did, I’m sure you’d wear it with pride.
Read more about living with autism in ‘Advocate Mommy‘ category of MommyQ.
On the evenings of April 1 and 2, 2011, prominent buildings across North America and the world — including the Empire State Building in New York City and the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada — will turn their lights blue to Raise Awareness for Autism and to commemorate World Autism Awareness Day on Saturday, April 2.
On Friday, April 1st you can wear blue and help spread the word about autism. Feeling adventurous? There are lots of things you can in addition to wearing blue:
•Light your house up blue by putting blue light bulbs in any outdoor fixtures! Home Depot has promised to have them in stock…
•Paint your nails blue!
•Bake blue desserts!
To see other ideas to LIGHT IT UP BLUE visit http://www.lightitupblue.org/ The CDC estimates that an average of 1 in 110 children in the U.S have a form of autism. Help me spread the word for my son and for every child needing extra support to find his/her voice.
Read about my journey with autism:
- Autism Means My Son is Happy When He’s Flappy
- Autism Rides Off Into the Sunset
- Shining Through: Proving Autism Wrong at a NASCAR Race
Image: Autism Speaks
If you watched the Golden Globes this past Sunday, did you notice the poignant moment between actress Claire Danes and Temple Grandin? I did. I noticed every single interaction between them. Why? Because I was watching those moments like a hawk. You see, Claire Danes won Best Actress in a Mini-Series for her portrayal of Temple Grandin, one of the most impressive autism advocates on the planet. A woman who happens to be autistic herself.
After Claire won, she and Temple hugged and that one instance brought tears to my eyes. You could see the excitement on Temple’s face. She was happy and she was relating and she was responding. When you know someone autistic, you understand how wonderful it is to see them experiencing simple emotions we all take for granted.
My older son was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Today he’s a well-adjusted 6-year-old who continues to make progress every day. This is why Claire’s award was so moving to me. Not only was I seeing the amazing progress Temple has made in her own life, but I see the future for my own child.
One of the most compelling things I heard while flipping between the Golden Globes and the season premier of Big Love, was Claire’s acceptance speech. She started off admitting, “It’s a risky movie to make.” The word “risky” resonated in my mind. I can’t say with certainty why she used that term, but I know exactly what she means.
She continued by saying, “I have to thank Temple. She’s still at it, she’s still working with incredible zeal and devotion to illuminate mysteries about autism and animal behavior.” And then Claire used two words I will never forget. She thanked Temple for helping, “millions of lives who have been dignified and improved by your genius.”
Hearing those two words used together in a sentence – dignified – genius – to describe someone with autism, was a beautiful thing. And it’s totally true. If you haven’t see the movie Temple Grandin, you must see it. If you know anyone with autism, it is absolutely imperative. The movie brings autism to light in a way that actually lets you see it. The pictures, the reality, the perceived reality. The unbelievable courage and devotion Temple’s mother exhibited should be an inspiration to every mom, whether you have an autistic child or not.
Plus, the genius of Temple is undeniable. The dignity she has brought to autism is undeniable. While I haven’t won a Golden Globe award and most assuredly never will, I would like to thank Temple too. I would also like to thank Claire for boiling it all down into a brief speech so poetically. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
If you’re looking for a gift with heart this holiday season, look no further. How about a custom bracelet from designer Dorian Webb, featuring faceted blue quartz in various sizes and shapes? Did I mention the proceeds from this gorgeous piece of jewelry benefits the North Texas Chapter of Autism Speaks? It’s an amazing gift for any woman in your life and the best part about it is it gives back to a fantastic organization.
As you may know from reading MommyQ, I have an autistic son. That being said, I’m even more impressed with Dallas mom, Lara Travis, who is spearheading this fashionable vision. Like me, Lara found out her child was autistic when she was about 18 months old. After the shock and sadness from the diagnosis wears off, it’s time to take action and that means spending lots of money on speech therapy, occupational therapy and often, private schools. Lara turned to Autism Speaks for support and direction and as proof of how meaningful the organization is in her life, she decided to give back in a unique way.
Lara combined her love of fashion and love for her daughter, Grace, into a beautiful reality. She recently commissioned award-winning designer Dorian Webb to create The Grace Bracelet for Autism. Lara wanted the bracelet to be representative of autism, as you can see with the deep blue apatite and a single piece of opaque blue quartz, but also totally wearable. Webb’s vision is also apparent in her signature granulated “pyramid cluster” and smaller “caviar caps” that accent the sea of blues with the sparkle of sterling silver, and complement the handmade toggle clasp.
“It’s beautiful because it’s the way I see Grace,” says Lara of the bracelet. “It’s fun, whimsical has a lot of beauty. It makes me really proud of Grace. She’s come such a long way and it feels great to give back to an organization I love.”
I personally encourage everyone to share this story and purchase a bracelet for your friends and family members this holiday season. If you know someone affected by autism, please pass this story along. I think they will see the beauty of the bracelet, as well as the beauty of the cause.
As you know, MommyQ is a huge NASCAR fan and has been for many years. Oddly enough, I grew up in Virginia and had no interest in NASCAR whatsoever while living there. Now I’m practically a Texan and a NASCAR fan for about 3 years. My hubby & I headed to Texas Motor Speedway last weekend for the Samsung 500. Yeehaw! What started out as a rainy, cold, muddy mess turned out to be one of the best weekends ever.
We arrived hoping for sunshine, but spent the day in a gloomy, wet mess. We’ve seen races get rained out on television many times, but this was the first one we had to experience in person. Not fun! The worst part was the mudfest in the parking lot. We got stuck almost instantly, but thanks to pushes from a few fans (in exchange for beer) we got out and found a tiny slice of dry land. Anyway, we shopped for fan gear and ate corny dogs and then they called the race. The new start time was noon on Monday. Back to Austin…
During the 3-hour drive home on Sunday, we decided to come back the next day for the race and bring our kiddos. Our little ones are HUGE NASCAR fans and we thought it would be the ultimate surprise. As you may know, our oldest child is 5 and was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder a few years ago. What could make a NASCAR race difficult for an autistic child? They usually detest loud noises, they don’t do well in huge crowds, they become easily overstimulated in a stadium environment and so on. We discussed the potential issues and decided to give it a try anyway. Three more hours in the car that may or may not be worth the effort.
To make a long story short, our kids were in shock & awe as soon as they heard the roar of the engines. We arrived a bit late, so the race was underway. In Dallas, you can hear the cars long before you can see them. With headphones on securely, we walked up the stadium steps and the look on my kid’s faces was a look I will always remember. Sheer joy! The youngest was a bit scared of the noise, even with headphones. But my oldest child defied every trait of autism and he was in heaven. He immediately started pointing to the cars as they flew by us at an amazing rate of speed and named the drivers.
We stood there for a moment, all of us trying to absorb the thrill and the magnitude of the race. We moved to our seats and my little distracted duck continued to point at each car until he had probably named them all about 10 times. Last year, this would not have happened. Last year it was hard to simply communicate, let alone attend an event this big and this loud with so many moving pieces. I’m not sure he would’ve understood where he was or made the connection or understood he was supposed to sit and watch. It would’ve been a three hour drive for a 10 minute stay.
Monday was special because we enjoyed a family pastime together as any normal family. We cheered when our drivers did well and cheered even louder when Jeff & Tony wrecked right in front us! We avoided the rain and enjoyed a beautiful cloudy day together, inhaling race fuel and cigarette smoke. Sounds gross, but it’s the smell that lets you know you’re a true fan. Best of all, two things were shining that day — the sun and my son.
Tomorrow my family will be wearing blue – will PROUDLY be wearing blue. Myself, my husband and our two children will help promote the incredible, international, Light It Up Blue campaign that kicks off World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month.
Iconic landmarks around the globe – including the Empire State Building in New York City and Willis Tower in Chicago along with the CN Tower in Toronto and Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia – as well as airports, bridges, museums, concert halls, restaurants, and retail stores, are among more than 100 structures in over 16 U.S. cities and nine countries around the world that will light up in bright blue tonight.
As the parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I cannot express how much this campaign means to me personally. I would wear blue every day of the year if it would help promote autism awareness! To me, the reason autism is so tricky is because we get a diagnosis of it and advice about improving it, but we get nothing solid about what it means for the future. People ask me how we deal with it and I always explain we take it one day at a time. If we sat around and worried about what the future may hold, we’d drive ourselves crazy.
On the bright side, things like speech therapy, OT therapy, family support, patient parents and loving teachers make it all better. Our autistic children make huge strides forward every single minute of the day. My heart goes out to the undiagnosed children who are struggling, the families who can’t afford the help they need and the “distracted ducks” that are living in an odd, isolated world.
Autism Speaks, North America’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, is launching this campaign. Since its inception only five short years ago, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $142.5 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families through 2014. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.
What can you do? How can you make a difference? Wear blue with pride tomorrow.
Read more about MommyQ’s life with autistic child: