autistic child on stage

My Son is an Elephant: Autism Takes Center Stage


autism takes the stage

My tall, skinny son looked rather comical in his worn, gray, jersey-knit bodysuit with his silly elephant nose made out of a dryer tube wrapped in silver electrical tape and a big pillow stuffed down the front of his outfit. He looked goofy and frumpy, which was exactly how he was supposed to look. The room was fully of excited children and glittery outfits – clown suits, ringmaster vests, acrobat leotards and funny props. And my son was a fat, gray elephant. I was very proud.

It was the annual kindergarten performance and I was a nervous wreck. I wasn’t worried about my son goofing up his lines, because he didn’t have any lines. I wasn’t worried about him making a mistake, because at that age, mistakes are pretty darn cute. I was worried about how he would handle the things I couldn’t anticipate. When you have an autistic child, you recognize the situations that may be uncomfortable or overwhelming, and you plan ahead to avoid them. If it’s going to be loud, you pack the soundproof headphones. If it’s going to be crowded, you go early to avoid crowds. The truth is, when you’re dealing with autism you just never know. And in this instance, I knew nothing.

My son and I practiced his little routine at home and I gave him verbal reassurance about the on-stage experience. No matter how much I prepped him, I realized he didn’t fully grasp what I was trying to convey. This is what autism is all about and this why it’s so tricky. The one thing I didn’t want him to experience on-stage was fear. It was impossible for me to imagine how he would process and handle the stage, the lights, the audience and the huge auditorium.

While I was pinning his bulky elephant costume closed, I kept telling him to have fun and not worry if he made a mistake. He smiled and said, “okay, mama!” I gave him a big hug and went to my seat in the second row. To many onlookers, I probably appeared to a normal, nervous, stage mom who secretly yearned for her child to steal the show. The reality of the situation couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The show was adorable and eventually, it was time for his act to perform. I could see the expression on his face as he stepped on-stage to the sea of faces looking back at him. He was scanning the unfamiliar faces for a familiar one – his mommy. As soon as he saw me waving at him, he waved back. I knew he would be fine. And he was. He sailed through his routine without a hitch. I was overcome with happiness, hope and of course, pride. My head was cheering, “He did it! He did it!” and then it happened…

All of the children, about 138 kiddos, gathered on-stage together for one final song. After the first few notes rang out, my son covered his ears and crouched down, putting his elbows on his knees. I panicked. My husband, who was sitting next to me, noticed too. We watched as he stood up and then resumed his position, blocking out his surroundings. It was too much and he was panicking. The lights, the noise, the camera flashes, the people, the stage. “Go help him!” I instinctively said to my husband, practically jumping out of my seat “No,” he said calmly, yet fearfully. “He’s handling it.”

The song seemed to last forever and while all of the other little faces sang happily and parents took tons of pictures, my son’s little face was hidden. It didn’t help that he was standing on the first row, front and center. On the bright side, as soon as the song ended he popped back up and smiled, enjoying the accolades from all of the parents. He didn’t cry, he didn’t run and he didn’t mentally checkout. He survived it in his own way. Yep, he handled it after all. What a star!

Read more about living with autism in my Advocate Mommy section.


Image: Mina Laben

Who Wants to Raise a Bully? Moms Who Are Also Bullies

“Come get me if they give you any crap.”

As a parent, I often learn valuable lessons by simply observing the actions of others. For example, this is why my hubby will never exercise shirtless at a park. On a serious note, I witnessed the epitome of “what not to do” parenting last week at the pool. Before I explain my story, I’m assuming none of us want to raise a bully. Right? We all know the actions of a bully may not leave physical scars, but the mental abuse can leave lifelong wounds or worse. Well, this jackass of a mom didn’t get the memo…

At the table next to me, I overheard a teenage boy tell him mom that a group of girls were playing with his inner-tube. First, as moms we all know toys at the pool are community property. That’s the law. Second, the boy was 13-15 and the girls playing with inner-tube were 6-years-old. I know this because they’re my son’s friends. Sweet, innocent and young girls. The floatie was abandoned in the pool and they started playing with it. These things happen.

My head was on a swivel as soon as I heard the mother tell her son in a very unkind tone, “Well, that’s your toy, so go get it! What are you standing there for?! Go get your toy.”

The boy wasn’t feeling comfortable with her response and you could tell he wished he hadn’t said anything about it. He said, “No, mom. You know. It’s okay. They’re having fun and I’m going to sit with you for a while and take a break.”

The mom retorted, “No, you’re not. Go get your butt in the pool and tell those girls that’s your toy. Do it! Come get me if they give you any crap.”

A mom (who happens to be a bully) was bullying her son (who was trying to be nice) into being a bully. Omg. There are so many things wrong with this on so many levels, I can’t even address it all. My head was spinning. I couldn’t even believe it. Yeah, watch out for 6-year-old girls giving a teen boy “crap” about an inner-tube. I’m sure they would’ve pounced on him and screamed “NO WAY!” at the top of their lungs. Classic pathetic motherhood moment. I wanted to reach out and slap that woman. I wanted to shake her and yell, “Do you even realize what you’re doing? Why do people like you procreate?” Yes, she made me want to be a bully. I get the irony.

Why wouldn’t she offer to assist her son and help him initiate the conversation with the girls? He was obviously feeling bad about ruining the fun. Instead of mediating and helping him grow, she just bullied him and bullied him. She wasn’t nice or sensitive or caring in any way, shape or form. She was a jerk and she was trying to force her son to be one too. Oh, and here’s her memo from me, MommyQ:

stop bullies

I really wish she had looked at my reaction to her during the ordeal, because I was saving up a super-duper eye roll/disapproving scowl for her. My brows were poised in the ultimate furrow position. She would’ve probably said something rude to me and I would’ve happily told her to bite me. It would’ve been a spectacular, “Jersey-Shore-Real-Housewives-table-tossing-hair-pulling” moment. Sadly, it didn’t happen. And sadly, that poor boy knows the example she is setting is wrong, yet his smart choices go unnoticed. Sad for everyone.

Let’s kick bullying to the curb, people. Learn more at

Favorite Summer Toy: Stearns Puddle Jumper

Summer is best known for relaxing poolside, sipping a frosty beverage and enjoying lazy days. Wait, it is? Then why is my summer a completely chaotic, unorganized journey of madness. Okay, it’s not that bad. Not yet.  As the mom of two youngsters, pool safety is a major concern. And getting my little guy (who has the mentality of a stubborn teenager) to willingly wear floaties or a life jacket is a battle.

I kept seeing these little cuties at the pool with nifty flotation devices. After some online research, I found out they are called Puddle Jumpers by Stearns. It’s like a life jacket combined with floaties with an adjustable strap and buckle in the back. It’s not a bulky or uncomfortable. Shockingly enough, I ordered one for my youngest son at the beginning of the summer. Yeah, I’d normally do it three days before summer officially ended. Anyway, I bought it at Leisure Pro and we took it for a test drive today. LOVE IT.

Here’s more about it:

– The Patent Pending design allows free range of motion and great stability while in the water.

– Choose from the green frog, the orange smile, the blue lion and the red ladybug.

– The Puddle Jumpers life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard- approved, and is also a great confidence builder for kids who are just learning their way around they water.

They sell them at Target and Toys R Us, but I found the best selection and prices online.

What’s your favorite summer toy for 2011?

Why We Love Martha Speaks: Unscripted Video Proof

If you follow MommyQ at all, you know I’m a huge fan of PBS shows. In fact, a few months ago I caught a hilarious moment on video of my kiddos playing Martha Speaks games online They were laughing so much, I assumed they were up to no good. Imagine my surprise when I discovered they were playing educational games online. A mother’s dream, right?

Earlier last week, I got an email that instantly caught my attention. “New Studies Show PBS KIDS Martha Speaks Has Impressive Impact on Children’s Vocabulary.” I excitedly read the findings and wanted to share them with my readers. Now remember, I have no connection with PBS. This is just one mom’s sincere love for a smart, talkative, yellow cartoon dog.

My experience is a bit different from other parents, because my oldest son is autistic. At the age of 4-years-old, he was hardly talking and strangers couldn’t understand him at all. That’s why we get very giddy when he likes shows like Martha Speaks that actually make a big effort to help his development. Now this may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but here’s proof of how far he’s come. He’s 6-years-old now and just finished kindergarten. I asked him (totally on-the-fly), what he thinks about Martha Speaks. Get a load of this….


Study Results
Three recent independent studies highlight the impressive impact that Martha Speaks is having on young childrens’ vocabulary development, and its strength as an early-intervention tool across broadcast and online platforms. These studies not only measured the impact on children who viewed episodes of the show, but additionally saw a significant increase in vocabulary skills among children playing with the Martha Speaks Dog Party iPhone app.

A few notable takeaways from the studies include:
• On average, children who watched Martha Speaks had a significantly greater increase in vocabulary knowledge compared to children who did not watch the show.
• Martha Speaks is an effective tool in helping bridge the vocabulary gap between low-income children and their more affluent peers.
• Martha Speaks facilitates inexpensive language opportunities at home.
• Program-specific vocabulary knowledge translated into higher standardized vocabulary scores for urban boys and rural children living in low socioeconomic-status homes.
• Children 3-to-7 years-old who played with the Martha Speaks Dog Party app tested up to 31 percent higher in vocabulary.
• Children were able to retain the increased vocabulary, and showed even greater gains on targeted words weeks after the study ended.

These studies are now available on the PBS KIDS website.

Crazy Mom Pic

Top 10 Wishes for Mother’s Day: Gnarly Muffin Tops


I just love watching men peruse the card section at Walgreen’s, trying to find the best Mother’s Day card for their mamas. The surly Larry The Cable Guy in a cutoff plaid shirt buys the beautifully illustrated sappy card with the heartfelt sentiments, while the Dell-looking guy in pleated khakis and a Titleist polo buys his mom the slightly raunchy card featuring a monkey wearing sunglasses or an old lady in a bikini.

I could be petty and wish for extravagant things or I could be totally content and wish for nothing or I could be myself and wish for more wishes. Okay, now I’m just confusing myself.


1. – I wish I liked glitter. Why? Because it is the most popular decorative element on the crafts my kids bring home from school. And due to my hatred for said glitter, those crafty creations always land in the trash.

2. – I wish I didn’t DVR so many shows, because I have like 39 hours of recorded shows that I NEVER have time to watch. Those shows hang over me like a dark cloud – a dark taunting cloud.

3. – I wish I had never heard the term “muffin top.” It was much easier to have them when I didn’t know what they were called. Naming them makes them real.

4. – I wish I exclaimed cooler phrases when I’m excited about something or mad. I say lame things likes, “Holy Moly” and “Are you kidding me?!’ and “Seriously!?!” I also use the words “dude” and “awesome” regularly.  After visiting my sister in Colorado, I’m thinking of swapping out “awesome” for “gnarly.”

5. – I wish I wasn’t addicted to fabric softener. I know it makes my clothes fall apart faster, it’s another heavy thing to buy at the grocery store (which I detest) and it prolongs an already horrible laundry experience. I can’t help it. Gain smells fantastic.

6. – I wish I didn’t have the uncanny ability to hear silent headlocks. I can hear them from a mile away. If my kids get really quiet while playing together, I know someone’s grumpy face is getting squished in the crook of someone’s tiny arm.

7. –  I wish I could open the pantry and/or the refrigerator and cleverly whip up an amazing meal with whatever I find. Let’s have instant oatmeal topped with spicy mustard, a slice of cheese and a jar of pimentos!

8. – I wish I didn’t think “that’s what she said” was a perfect addition to any statement. Michael Scott was right on the ball. That’s what she said.

9. – I wish kid’s movies were lame. I watch Despicable Me, Megamind and Wall-E with way too much interest. I am genuinely sad when the kids get bored and want to turn the movie off early. Once in a while, I finish watching the movie by myself after they go to bed.

10. – In thinking about wish #9, I’d like to wish for a bunch of my own minions. Cute, little, yellow critters who can help do the laundry, clean up cat puke, find missing socks, break up the silent headlocks, etc. I think every mom deserves at least 25 of them, as long as they’re very self sufficient, I’m assuming I don’t have to feed them. If so, I hope they like my oatmeal surprise (refer to wish #7).

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the fab mommies out there. May you get a box full of minions this year….

When it Comes to Parenting, Does Hypocrisy Rule the Little Things?

Parenting Tips

I hear myself saying things to my rambunctious children like, “Don’t leave your shoes in the middle of the floor,” and “Pick up your messes,” and often notice, I don’t do these things myself. It makes me wonder, are all parents hypocrites? When it comes to the little things, are we walking contradictions?

My hubby and I are good about the big stuff we preach to our kids, like no cussing. Once in a while we accidentally let an expletive fly in front of the kids, but it’s rare. When we tell them not to hit, scratch, bite, push or shove each other, we’re on track. We never handle situations in a physical nature. Well, I may have thrown a brush at my hubby 10 years ago, but we weren’t even engaged and certainly didn’t have children way back then. Plus, he may have deserved it. I wasn’t aiming right at him. I digress.

It’s the small things that make me think I’m a hypocrite:

Pick up your mess! – I’m always trying to get my children to put away their toys and pick up the little explosions of stuff around the house. Then I find myself walking through the door with my own ‘mess’ of stuff and it all lands on the kitchen counter. And it piles up higher and higher. No, I’m not great about putting my messy things away.

Don’t leave your shoes in the floor! – I can’t stand seeing shoes scattered all over the place. Then again, I’ll leave multiple pairs of my own shoes all over the house. They rarely make it upstairs into my closet either!

Don’t eat in front of the TV! – I encourage my kids to eat their meals at the table. But sometimes I want to relax and watch TV, so I’ll eat a sandwich or a meal on the sofa like a true-blooded couch potato.

Wear a coat! – In this ridiculously cold weather, my hubby and I are always nagging the kids to put on heavy winter coats. Then, he and I only wear sweaters and walk out without coats ourselves. Sorry, I can’t stand being too hot. Besides, I know I won’t freeze.

Try new foods? Oh yeah, this is a good one. We’re always trying to encourage my kids to discover new foods. I’ve even resorting to bribing them with dessert if they at least taste  a new dish. Uhm, I’m as stubborn as a mule when it comes to trying new foods. But I’m old, I’ve had my whole life to know exactly what foods I might like and which ones I can live without. Doesn’t wisdom make me less of a hypocrite?

What do you think? Are we all hypocrites when it comes to our day-to-day parenting ways? Is it okay to be a walking contradiction as long as our intentions are good? Do tell….


No Joy in My Cooking: Picky Eaters Rule the Roost

feeding picky eaters

I was blessed with two very healthy, very picky eaters. And I mean PICKY. Imagine facing mini food critics at every meal. It’s like Top Chef, but the judges are unpredictable toddlers who won’t even try your food if they don’t like how it looks. It’s too brown or too green or too chunky or too hot. Not even a nibble, folks.

I was in a restaurant last week and overheard a mom complaining to her friend about how much her toddler eats. “Oh, my! She eats everything I put on her plate. It’s just crazy!” She said that as though it were a bad thing! I was instantly jealous. Earlier today, a friend of mine mentioned on her Facebook status about putting in hours of work to cook a nice meal, only to have everyone (her children) NOT like it. I felt bad for her, but I was also relieved. It’s not just happening in my family. Thank goodness!

My children don’t eat/drink food you might consider kiddo favorites like:
– Milk
– Cereal
– Hotdogs and/or Corndogs
– Mac-N-Cheese
– Grilled cheese sandwiches
– Yogurt

Not to mention, my toddler won’t eat anything with “black” on it, which is pepper or spices or marks left by grilling. Do you know how hard it is to pick the “black” off of a piece of grilled chicken? Let me tell you, it’s hard. If he sees an oat that’s too big in his oatmeal, he calls it a “grasshopper” and demands it be removed immediately. Same goes for pulp in orange juice. And no, he has never found a bug in his food. No mental insect-to-food trauma going on here.

What makes this all tough is I’m not a great cook in the first place. Sure, I can use a toaster and a blender and I know how to stir things together, but that’s the extent of my culinary skills. I don’t particularly enjoy cooking and when I go to the trouble of making something with actual ingredients and a recipe and they won’t eat it… Well, then I become an angry short order cook, preparing a bunch of mini-meals for each kid, plus the hubby. Nobody really likes “angry cooking mommy” anyway.  It’s not pretty.

I think back to my own childhood and recognize I was a picky eater and my father was a really picky eater when he was a kid. He claims he lived on cucumbers and potatoes until he was a teenager. Maybe it just runs in the family. I’ve seen a lot of books about pleasing picky eaters, but I’d like to hear it from my readers. How do you deal with feeding a tough crowd??? Keep on trying or throw in the dish towel?