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autism header

I want to share with you one of my family’s favorite events to attend every year: The Autism Walk & Expo of the Hudson Valley. We look forward to heading to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds every April for this event! This walk event is super family friendly and it is the biggest annual fundraising event for our local chapter of the Autism Society of America.

I confess this event was one of my favorites before I had kids. I was a board member and the marketing chair for Autism Society Hudson Valley for nearly seven years. I left when I was pregnant with my twins (five years ago, yikes!). But, my heart never let go!

set up

For seven years in a row I helped with all the behind the scenes support to make this event happen. I handled print media, gathered donations, procured the entertainment, stuffed goody bags and set up signs the night before. I loved every second of it. But, you know one thing I didn’t get to do each of those years? Actually participate in the awesome activities happening at the event!

My kids weren’t even a year old when we took them to their first walk event. I remember pushing our giant red, double stroller through the grass and taking everything in for the first time. It is truly an amazing event where families with children living with autism can find support. No one is judging you if your kid can’t be near the loud DJ, or they are having a meltdown because they are over stimulated. In fact, almost every parent attending understands “over stimulated.”

Drums at walk

I may be a tad biased with my past experience, but let me tell you why this is my families favorite event of the year. Not only do my kids have a great time banging on drums, petting the Llamas and jumping in the big bouncy houses, but we get to help a lot of local families who are in need of services and advocacy.

Ribbon cutting

The walk portion of this event is the most important part. Most of the funds raised by registration fees stay right here in the Hudson valley serving our local families. (A small portion goes toward autism research). To register as a team, or as an individual you can download registration form below, or stop by the registration tent upon entering the fairgrounds.

2.29.16 Walk Reg

Autism Society Hudson Valley provides grants for persons with the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or a parent, a professional or caregiver working with a person with ASD. Grants can be used for a variety of reasons; including but not limited to, health & safety concerns, therapies, social skills classes or recreational activities. (These grants WILL NOT cover daily living expenses or household bills). For more details you can download the grant application form below. The Autism Society Hudson Valley also brings guest speakers and conferences locally for parents and educators.

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The Expo portion gathers local service agencies under one big info tent. This makes it convenient for parents to walk through and pick up information about an agency, or talk with an employee representative. To keep the kiddos entertained there is usually a bouncy house, sand art, drum time, karate demonstrations and a little fair with activities. Specific activities may change each year, but there is usually plenty of fun for everyone!

This event takes place rain or shine, so be prepared to bring appropriate gear. You can always duck into the grand stands if necessary. The walk happens along the track and strollers are allowed, but no skate boards, bikes or scooters. Food for purchase is available, but breakfast is typically served in the morning at no charge and a few snacks and bottled water is available too. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. with opening ceremonies at 10 a.m. You won’t want to miss the traditional ribbon cutting ceremony and countdown to walk start! Walk begins at 10:30 a.m. It is a 1-2 mile walk around the track.

As you take your lap around the track, be sure to take a moment and look behind you. Experiencing that sea of compassionate walkers and volunteers moving together to make a positive change for families living with autism is breath taking. I guarantee you will need a Kleenex!

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter.


Sydney shopping with me

I had an experience recently that made me want to issue a challenge to moms everywhere. I was at Aldi (did I mention once or a hundred times that I LOVE Aldi?) during spring break with all three of my kids. While at the bagging counter a woman next to me said, “I really like how you’re raising your kids.” All I did was ask them to help me by putting items from the cart onto the bagging counter. It’s amazing what one person’s mompliment (compliment on another mom’s parenting skills) can do for a tired, overwhelmed or stressed out mama.

Encouragement in Aisle 1

I read this article on the Huffington Post, which relates a very similar experience. It’s odd that the few times I’ve had a stranger compliment me on my parenting it’s always been at the grocery store. Maybe other mothers just get how hard it is to juggle children while grocery shopping. You must simultaneously keep your children close to you and out of the path of displays and other patrons’ carts while hunting for the items on your list.

God bless the parents who also show understanding and compassion on those days this juggling act just doesn’t go as planned and some balls (or jars of spaghetti sauce) hit the floor. I know I’ve personally turned to the mother in the checkout line behind me whose child has just dropped a glass jar on the floor and said, “Don’t worry. My child has done that before too.”

Broken Glass and Break Downs in Aisle 2

I get that it’s embarrassing when your children do something wrong or have a tantrum in public. The reality is that it happens to the best of us at some point or another and it really doesn’t reflect poorly on our parenting skills. We all have bad days and we should be able to turn to one another in these moments and say, “You know what Mama, it’s going to be ok.” One bad day or moment doesn’t define you as a parent.

Seasoning and Wisdom in Aisle 3

I’ve noticed a trend. It’s usually the seasoned parents whose children are now teenagers or grown adults that are the most likely to point out your parenting wins and compliment you. Perhaps they’ve just had time and space from the season of raising young children, and can look back and appreciate those mamas still in the trenches of parenting little people with little to no impulse control. I don’t think we should wait that long though. We can start recognizing the good in others right now no matter what season of parenting we’re in.

Challenge and Change in Aisle 4

At my mom’s group at church this week I told them about my experience and how it affected me and I offered up a challenge. Tell one stranger that they see out in public that they’re doing something right with their kids.

The internet is full of parents shaming one another and I for one am tired of it. We’re better than that. We don’t need to make each other feel bad in order to make ourselves feel better. When we’re having a bad day, we need to extend ourselves a little grace and forgiveness and we need to extend it to other parents as well.

Attention and Praise in Aisle 5

So I’m issuing this challenge to parents everywhere if you choose to accept it. Take a moment to go out of your way to notice another parent totally rocking it; whether it’s helping their child at the park, reading to them at the library or just taking their kids on a walk in the neighborhood and say, “You’re doing a great job!” We all need to hear it sometimes.

Think about the impact one little mompliment could have on those around us. When we choose to lift each other up it not only impacts our lives, but the lives of our kids as well.

change the world

Mompliments and World Change in Aisle 6

It’s not that I really believe this challenge will change the world, what I believe is that it will change one person and that’s really all you need to do to change the world. When we stop worrying about the impossible, just maybe we summon the courage to do what is possible.

I would love to hear how mothers are making an impact all around them. So read and share this post with as many people as you can. Follow Hudson Valley Parent magazine on Facebook and Twitter.

Let us know you participated in the #momplimentchallenge and how the recipient responded. If you’re so inclined, take a selfie with the parent and share it as well. Don’t forget to tag it #momplimentchallenge.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

Gnocchi was a pasta we enjoyed prior to becoming gluten-free.  Since then, I don’t think I’ve once seen an alternative in the store.  I made them a few years ago, but thanks to a surplus of mashed potatoes after Easter, I decided to make them this afternoon.  They’re not difficult, although do require a number of simple steps.  However, the end result was worth it, as both of my kids repeatedly professed their love for their dinner (and asked for more).

Potato Gnocchi

I use this recipe, which comes out tender and delicious.  After mashing the potatoes, combine with remaining ingredients.  Sprinkle flour on a clean surface and roll into ropes.

With a butter knife, slice into one-inch pieces and indent with the back of a fork (which helps them hold sauce, apparently).  If you’re letting the little ones help with dinner, this step is a great one to hand off.

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A few things I’ve learned through making these: Do not leave the potato skins on (which I frequently do with mashed potatoes, but doesn’t taste good in gnocchi), and mash the potatoes until they are smooth with no lumps (again, great in mashed potatoes, but less so in a pasta dish).  The water can get starchy after a few batches, so change if necessary. Drain thoroughly, and eat promptly. These were great with a simple marinara, turkey sausage, and a side of steamed broccoli.  To make dinner happen in a hurry, I mixed the ingredients in the morning, put the bowl in the refrigerator, and left a pot of water on the stove.  At dinner time, I turned on the stove, finished preparing the gnocchi (rolling, cutting, marking) and put them into the boiling water (use a spoon! I burned my arm after dropping the first batch in a little too vigorously).

As I surveyed the dinner mess as we walked back out the dinner for our evening activities, I wasn’t sure if it was worth the effort.  Yes, they were good, but couldn’t I have just stuck to regular pasta?  Probably. But we got back in the car, both of my kids remarked, “That dinner was REALLY good,” so I decided it was.  Probably not something I’d find time for on a regular basis, but a special dinner, especially if you’re gluten-free and miss enjoying this dinner. Share your dinner favorites below with our readers.  To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.

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