Monday, April 11, 2011

Just Some Facts

It's still Autism Awareness Month. Some of the signs from the Autism Speaks walk share facts that remind us why this issue is so important to our society.

The biggest and foremost are the staggering numbers of those directly impacted by becoming diagnosed. The numbers are increasing, and no one knows why.

If you do the math, that's 24,455 people per year, which is almost the entire population of our town ... in just one year.

Many people wish that science or doctors could detect autism at the earliest stage possible. It would also give them a clear description of the condition and a map of action that could produce concrete results. Some people wish that Autism could be cured with a pill. Others (including those on the spectrum) see it as a part of themselves. Insurance companies ... well, that's a whole other universe.

But somehow, it doesn't seem to be a priority at the national, policy-making levels (yet):

Again, the problem is not holding steady, fluctuating, or decreasing, it is GROWING:

This growth in numbers of those affected by autism, combined with evidence-based practice supporting the importance of early intervention, makes me want to scream when the budgets for these early clinical and support programs get reduced or axed. We are cutting a few dollars now with the result that more services will be needed, and at greater cost, a few short years down the road.

And what do these facts actually *look* like? Well ...

They look like families

Who come together

Support each other

(the banner says "I love my brother with Autism")

and walk for answers



Saturday, April 09, 2011


We just got back from the Windsor Town Green and our second Autism Speaks walk, and I have to tell you, it was awesome! The weather cooperated, the Town Green is made for families, and it felt so good to see so many of them come out and support each other.

We got there nice and early this year. It was mighty nice to be able to pop into a shop and get a coffee or muffin.

Because we were early, we had time to play some of the games and try the exhibits.

It was very moving for me to see the families show support of one another. It truly makes a huge difference.

For example, this year, James' Nana helped raise money and came with us on the walk.

We got to see some of our Friends:

And we are moving forward toward our goals.

Thank you everyone for helping us. It truly makes a difference.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Hope for Buddies and Friends

So tomorrow James and I will be walking in our second Walk Now for Autism Speaks event. This year it is so much closer to home -- yay! While we enjoyed walking at Infineon (with our pals the sheep and Shetland ponies) ... the driving will be so much less!

While we are walking to raise funds and have our own page, we are part of a local team called "Hope for Buddies and Friends." It is well named.

Hope is something that I as a parent cling to: hope for better studies and research; hope for help; hope for a good life for James.

Hope is how I feel when James has his breakthroughs, like becoming more self-sufficient, talking to his friends at school, writing numbers, or reading me a sentence.

Hope is where I need to refocus, when I get down about the metaphorical autism mountains yet to climb, discouraging news about budget and school cuts, or I go one too many nights without enough sleep due to my early rising son.

Hope is knowing there are answers out there. Hope comes from good friends. Love and faith keep us hoping for our other buddies and friends, whatever their struggles may be.

So if you're near the Windsor Town Green tomorrow, April 9th, come on out to see all the friends and buddies, walking for hope and a better future. There will be raffle baskets and information about autism-related services and studies. And if hope is something you want to get behind, please consider making a donation to James and his team.

Getting Bolder

Just over a week ago, we took a ride up into the mid 80s. We broke out the t-shirts and discovered James, at age 6, is now wearing sizes 7-8. He's also taking a size 13.5 in sandals. Thank goodness for hand-me-downs!

After school, we went swimming for the first time this year. The swim trunks that fell off him in November fit perfectly now. And even though this was not our usual swim pool, James went in the water all by himself. Only wearing the floatie ring, he'd bop up and down the pool lane by himself. He tried starting a water little fight with two of his cousins. Oh man, that twinkle in his eye! This guy wants some action.

He's come such a long way from freaking out when getting into the water and not wanting splashes anywhere near his face. I am so proud of him.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Fun at the Fair

Finally, after seven years of meaning to go, we made it to the Citrus Fair in Cloverdale! Because it is such an obvious, big event for this little town, I'd been curious to see what it was like. Alas, colds and flu struck us every year with uncanny precision come Citrus Fair weekend.

This year the fair fell on President's Weekend, and we took advantage of reduced admission day to visit. The weather was very cold, threatening rain and snow in the hills. Although we stayed only 2 hours, we enjoyed ourselves very much.

So, Cloverdale thought it would become the Citrus Capitol of Northern California ... until it went through a couple of Sonoma County winters, that is. Still, there are pockets in the county that boast decades-old, hardy citrus trees. Here's what we saw as soon as we entered the fairgrounds:

After touring the citrus and floral displays (created to a 50's theme), we headed outside and ate our bag lunch at the outdoor picnic tables. We were right by some noisy carnival rides and music was on the loudspeakers. I was proud of how well James did with all the noise. We walked around and looked at the rides and games. A departing family handed us some of their leftover tickets, and I bought a few more. I told the kids they could do one game and one ride.

James didn't want to go on the rides, so I took his sister on the mini roller coaster. James had a conversation with his Nana, showing he was correctly counting the number of times we'd looped the track and asked her how many more times we'd be going. At ever trip around, we'd all wave at each other.

At one of the game booths, the carnival worker assured me they would both with a prize, so they tossed ping-pong balls and made their horses chase to a finish line on a board. They both won little turtles, which they love. Big sister named hers "Cutie" and James named his "Toby".

Big sister took a ride down the big slide all by herself while we cheered her, and then we had a snack:

We spent half an hour at the bubble tables before calling it a day.

Freezing, family fun, and first of many visits!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Tackle It Tuesday: Environment

Finally, after rain, clouds, grey, snow, and more cold rain, we are getting bursts of warm Spring weather. Back in January I invested in a beautiful pair of loppers are went to work pruning trees, bushes, and vines. These things combined resulted in our going bonzo with new growth. The windstorms mean that leaves and debris are everywhere.

I have been working to clean the yards (front and back) for the kids' playing area, and for our own enjoyment. Yesterday, James came out and "helped" me rake. He gave it a good 5 minutes before heading off to swing in the newly uncovered play area out back.

The "before" pics were unremarkable, so I'll show you some of the our yard as it is now, after several hours, days, and minutes of work. Enjoy!

Part of our outback:

My son, raking for the good of the environment!

Our plum tree was about 3 weeks ahead of it and got blasted by rain, sleet, hail, and overnight freezes; all the blossoms were stripped off PDQ and now only a few branches have leaves ... The cherry tree is blooming at just the right time, and full of snow white blooms. I am dreaming of early summer cherries:

James thinks the few falling petals are snowflakes!

The grape vines are leafing out, which makes it easy for me to spot the ones I missed clipping out of the nearby trees ...

"Say 'cheese,' Mommy!"

Look at how full this bin is! I even smooshed it down a couple of times so more could fit inside:

Thank you, helper James!

What is your mission? Read and be inspired at Tackle It Tuesday on 5 Minutes for Mom. Post your own story to share with other Tacklers.

Magic Marker Monday: Doodles

James' sister is down with the flu for the second time this year. It means a lot of sleepless nights for she and I, and saying goodbye to what little spare brainpower I've had.

Case in point: I let James draw with markers at the kitchen table while I tended his sister. I was so tired at bedtime that I did not notice what he'd snuck into his room: paper and markers. Oh no.

Normally I'd be awakened by a tattooed and totally cheerful boy the next morning. I shudder to think what could have happened to the walls, which suck up any colour and refuse to turn it loose, even with Mr Clean Magic Eraser assistance.

Instead, he doodled on the paper, his hands, his mirror, and part of his bed. Magic Markers, indeed!

... And this one did make me laugh: he wrote in marker on his Magna Doodle:

Good luck erasing that one, Dude!

For more great masterpieces or to share some of your own, visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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